Your coffee machine is watching you
Just over three years ago we treated ourselves -- that's me and the husband -- to an expensive coffee maker for Christmas, as a mutual present to ourselves. It was a De longhi Prima Donna and in truth it was more than we could afford (hence the mutual Christmas present "buy out"). But we both like cappuccino for breakfast and all cheaper alternatives had proved disappointing. (When it comes to steam pressure, you get what you pay for, it seems.)
Anyway, the Prima Donna had given us over three years of trouble free coffee, until a few weeks ago when a "generic alarm" notice appeared on the little electronic screen (the screen that gives the owner all kinds of warnings: "fill water tank", "descale" or "empty grounds container"). We fixed that, but it still didn't work for cappuccino, though would offer straight coffee.
So we sent the machine off (all seamlessly organised by Delonghi), we accepted the very reasonabale estimate for putting it right, and took return delivery of the (entirely working) machine. No complaints at all.
The funny thing was that the machine was returned with a record of use. Somehow, from the inner chip, the excellent engineer was able to tell us that in the last three years we had made 9266 cups of coffee, using 1796 litres of water, and that we had descaled the appliance 28 times (one of the preliminary repair questions had been "do you descale regularly?"; we had said "yes", but now we see that they could have called us out on that.. "sorry our records say that you have only descaled twice in te last x months ..").
So our favourite machine was keeping track of us, as I now assume that our other appliances must: "you have only turned on your washing machine 28 times in those last 18 months"....and so on ?
The irony was that on that very evening on which I investigated the coffee machine I had talked to an excellent group of students at Newnham. What was the difference, I was asked, between Cambridge life in the 1970s and now?
Confidently, I said that it was the culture of surveillance, the cctv cameras watching on people's comings and goings. Oh yes? It was only when I got home and discovered that my excellent coffee machine had been watching my coffee making activities that I wondered what I had been saying.
It's not Big Brother, it's your coffee machine that's watching you.