Our 27th year of publishing

Published January 12, 2021



How smart are ‘smart’ gadgets?

By John Toth / The Bulletin

I got an air fryer for my birthday, and it came with a new feature, new to me, anyway - it’s a “smart fryer.”

But how smart can an air fryer be? Maybe it will warn me if I’m overcooking something or let me know that the chicken needs more seasoning.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it did all of that. The way technology races past many of us these days, anything is possible.

When it comes to smart gadgets, I’d like to have a smart doorbell that can figure out which solicitations I’d want to consider or when to pretend that I’m not at home.

Kids selling candy are O.K. Their teams need them. I’ve been there, done that (although most of the time, I just bought the candy). Adults selling retail electric plans, new roofs or magazines are off-limits.

I could use a smartphone, but not the kind we already have. I want my smartphone to be able to differentiate between a real local number and fake ones fabricated by those trying to sell extended car insurance plans.

I used to be able to tell which calls I should not answer. Now these callers somehow just pick a random number with my area code, and wallah - I answer the phone. I still don’t buy anything, though, and hang up.

Waiting until the end of the message to be able to get on a do-not-call list is not such a good idea, I have concluded. First, it doesn’t work. They’ll call you, anyway. Second, they’ll call you more because they know you are listening to the message. Third, you could be buying a timeshare plan by pressing the number that they tell you will take you off their calling list - which it won’t.

I don’t know about the timeshare part, but if there is a phone out there that can detect fake local numbers, I want it. Maybe there is, and I’m just not up to speed on these new gadgets.


Sorry, my cat did that, which leads me into another smart gadget I'd like to be invented - a keyboard that can detect when a cat is walking or rolling on it or when a human is typing.

That would save all of us cat lovers a lot of time. Maybe the keyboard could sense if a furry paw is making contact with it or my fingers. Then it would erase what the cat created, and I would be able to continue working without interruption.

If they can send man to the moon, they can surely come up with a smart cat-proof keyboard. That’s not too much to ask, since we sent the first man to the moon in 1969.

Looking around the house, I don’t think that I’d want to make anything else smart - except maybe the TVs. I still have dumb TVs because they have not broken yet, and I can’t buy a 4K TV until these ancient 1080s break.

Calling them smart TVs is really misleading. They aren’t really all that smart.

A smart TV would know that I’m bored with a football game when one team is running away with a 40-point lead and would change the channel to a game that is a little more competitive, but not golf.

I cannot watch golf. I’m not a golfer and watching it on TV is more boring to me than watching paint dry. A smart TV should know that.

So, what does my smart air fryer do that is so smart? I am afraid to hook it up to find out.

I got on Facebook to brag about it, and one of my friends warned me not to connect it to my phone or wi-fi, or whatever makes it smarter than the basic air fryer.

“I had a friend who had a crock pot like that and got hacked on all devices,” warned Mary Patterson.
That’s a lot of pressure.

So, I have yet to connect it to the magical digital world, but I am happy to report that the air fryer is working great the old-fashioned way - when I push the buttons.

Also, connecting it to the cyberworld would require that I read the instruction manual.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)