Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist


I couldn’t sleep (night of July 11) so I headed downstairs to my office to see what’s cookin’ so to speak.

It is now 2 a.m. As I came downstairs from the second to the first floor, I looked out the side windows by the front door and noticed our lawn mower, “Husqui” (a Husqvarna Automower) was diligently working in the front yard.

Husqui’s work keeps the lawn looking freshly cut all the time. Husqui’s work schedule is midnight Sunday to 4 p.m. Tuesday, 4 p.m. Wednesday until midnight Thursday, then midnight Friday to midnight Saturday. Husqui is so quiet that no one in the neighborhood can hear her in their homes.

The gap in her work schedule Tuesday to Wednesday is when trash containers may be sitting in the front yard. Obstacles are no problem for Husqui, she just backs up and goes another direction, but we don’t need that mowing time anyway.

Husqui also stops until the next cycle (all cycles start at midnight) if she determines the grass has not grown enough to cut. Rain is not a problem; she cuts equally well in rain.

As I pass through the kitchen, I notice several LEDs glowing and notice the dishwasher, put on a delayed schedule before we went to bed, is operating. Back to the front porch for a minute, I noticed that the five night lights on the front porch are off, their timer automatically shutting them down at 11:30 p.m. The refrigerator in the kitchen is not running at the moment.

Heading to the basement, where my office is, the refrigerator in the basement kitchen is operating, as is the downstairs air conditioning unit.

Silent, with only a few LEDs on strategic pieces of equipment around the house, our Simplisafe alarm system is on duty, protecting us from fire, carbon monoxide, water leakage in bathrooms (and around the water heater and air-conditioning coils) and unwanted entry.

Going into my office, the computer is on, of course (I never turn it off and it has a battery backup) and the simple electronic microscope and the business card reader, both connected to my main computer, are emitting their usual glows.

As I look at it, an email comes in from a client in Germany, who obviously just got to work this Thursday morning.

In the closet, three laptop computers are indicating they are charging, ready to be selected as appropriate for my next trip, and the printer has a couple of LEDs glowing. Had I bothered to go into my wife’s office before leaving the second floor, I would have seen similar equipment running there.

The Wi-Fi system’s three nodes, one on each floor, are glowing as well. When the technician from Geek Squad was out a few weeks ago, he noted we had, at the time, 19 devices online on the Wi-Fi system.

This includes three Alexas (which can also be used to give voice commands to Husqui, among other tasks), three cell phones and other devices. Our washing machine is Wi-Fi capable, but I have not hooked it up because I can’t figure out why I want the washing machine online.

My car is online, and I can check whether it needs gas by looking at an app on my phone. Speaking of apps, I don’t need to check the app on my phone to see if our solar panels are working. I still have enough of a human brain left to know that they are not at 2 a.m. at our latitude (if we were way up north, say at 60 degrees north latitude or higher, I would be tempted to check this time of year).

Other than the fact that both of us work at home, I would suggest our home’s electronic load in the middle of the night mimics many other middle-class suburban homes these days.

I have mentioned here before that I read the obituary of an octogenarian thespian who passed away in the 1980s who was once asked his opinion of the greatest advancement in the theater in his lifetime. His one-word answer was “electricity.”

Michael Faraday harnessed electricity in 1821. It has not been 200 years from his nascent work to our homes of today laden with electrical and electronic devices of every size and description, so inexpensive that homes such as ours has “electronic servants” performing all sorts of tasks, formerly not attainable except at great expense or drudgery.

For this old farm boy, whose home of the 1960s likely had a simple 30-amp electrical service, the changes are astounding. I only have to look at a cabinet here in my office and notice the nine transistor Sears Silvertone radio (which took 6 C-cell batteries) there, and which was next to my bed all during my high school years, to reconnect to that much simpler time.

The question remains: Does all of this as I have described today make life more convenient and improve the quality of life? Perhaps in some ways, yes, but in other ways, no.

I can tell you this: Time passes much faster here in the suburbs with all these devices than it does when I visit my Mennonite friends. I miss the slower times.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at jthompson@taii.com.