Friday, February 02, 2007

I remember when...

Do you remember when cars were mostly mechanical machines? When I was in high school, I bought and sold cars as kind of a hobby. I would clean them up, sometimes repair or paint them, drive them for a while and then sell them.


I always enjoyed working on cars. A neighbor of mine, Jeff Davis, taught me almost everything I know about cars. He was a few years older than me, and liked to customize his car. He had a 1969 Corvette, and later customized a Datsun (do you remember Datsun?). We spent many nights under the hood or just plain under our cars. I think that may have been one of the reasons I went on to get a degree in mechanical engineering.

Anyway, this week I took my car in for service. I was having a few niggling problems and finally got around to taking it in. Here was my list:
  1. Idles a bit rough when cold
  2. Bluetooth drops phone connection when a second call comes in (call waiting)
  3. My iPod interface sometimes goes back to the current list/folder after I select a new list/folder.
  4. Roadside assistance was never initialized

Thinking about this later made me realize how much things have really changed. The car, which has it's own fiber-optic backbone by the way, is packed with electronics. It doesn't even have a dipstick to check the oil. You use the computer to see how much oil is in the pan. So, they hook the car up to their Cray computer or whatever they use for diagnostics now, and you know what? All of my problems were fixed by the computer. Even the cold idle problem.

This really great technician (Alex) from east bay bmw comes out and goes over it with me. I think he's some kind of nobel prize winning scientist or something. He explains that the car needed software updates for 22 different modules. Apparently that's a lot. And, given that the car is barely 6 months old, it really makes you wonder. Software updates? Can you even buy a car that's mechanical anymore?

1 comment:

jake said...

I remember - fondly and painfully! It's no wonder futurists forecast people becoming robots - it seems like a logical extension of cars becoming computers!