Monday, April 22, 2013

What's that beeping

A comedy unfolded  the other day, a dilemma of chasing electronic beeping.  I was in the kitchen fixing dinner, setting the table when  the "beep, pause, beep, pause began."  Thinking I might not have closed the freezer  or refrigerator doors completely, they usually are the  chirping culprits, I opened and closed both doors, and reached back to the stove to tend the pot.  "Beep, pause, beep" again as I continued setting the table, multi tasker that I am once the food approaches serving time, I like it all to be done.  Once again I opened and closed the doors tightly, I thought, take that.  After  repeated beeps and doors, I glanced at the coffee pots, my Keuig and Jerry's Cuisinart (we are a two pot household) nothing lit there, the microwave which had not been used for this meal, the radio, the oven, the  TV, nothing flashing, nothing but the beep pause beep continued an annoying serenade.

The news coverage of the Boston bombings  has a cacophony of sounds,  background noises, sirens, etc such that I tend to turn a deaf ear.  Just the other day we were unsure if it was my cell phone, tablet or the TV chirping before I realized I'd changed the ring tone on the cell.  All the electronic gadgets that have presence in this house have their own little noises to share.  But as the beep, pause, beep, pause continued it was time to summon Jerry from his chair to assist in the search   Having spent the last years of his career with electronics he is more familiar with the various sounds and rhythms of electronic devices.   His hearing is not as sharp as mine which is another story  that frustrates me, but when I said, "listen for the beep" he immediately opened and closed the doors of the refrigerator/freezer too despite my protest that I'd already done that several times. He proceeded  to monitor the kitchen, the cable TV and  weather alert wiring, wireless phones, the smoke and CO2 alarms in the hall and bedrooms without success.  He stepped  back to the laundry room, could it be the dryer or washer, neither of which were in use?  No luck there so he went downstairs to the entertainment area, below the kitchen and he could barely hear it,  it was upstairs. But just in case, he checked the furnace room with its multiple controls, the water heater, etc.  Nothing flashing,  silence, no beeps below but he stood below thinking.    I remained in the kitchen fiercely looking at all our appliances, "for crying out loud, which  of of you is it!"  

As Jerry returned I burst into laughter, " aha, the dishwasher!"  I had opened it before the heated dry cycle was complete to set the clean dishes onto the table.  We seldom use the heated dry feature, but we had both forgotten to push the start button that morning and so faced with a full dishwasher, ran it on heated dry. With two of us we run it every few days, we wash up our pots and pans and load the rest into it until its full.  Guilty as charged when I lifted the door back into place, it flashed and beeped in protest.  A quick flick of the cancel and noise gone. 

But this had me thinking about all these electronic appliances, utilities and gadgets with their noise making ability.  A quick Google search indicated "Noise generated by electronic devices varies greatly, as it can be produced by several different effects."  But when did all this clatter begin, I don't remember ever before having appliances make so much noise.  Our refrigerator absolutely groans and moans when it cycles with forming new ice as though its release of cubes into the ice tray is dyspeptic relief.  My Keurig warming hums along another tune.  

I really  prefer the sound of quiet  and or my own voice so I ponder, why must everything sound off.  Our kitchen appliances are all rather new 2009  General Electric appliances.  I found an interesting and yet appalling discussion of what the futrue holds for  electronic noises on this website    
You ask, what's in store next,  "General Electric, the appliance monolith, is one such company taking sound seriously. Instead of voicing all its next-gen dryers and dishwashers with the same beeps and boops, GE’s trying to distinguish its four appliance brands by giving them each their own unique sonic palette, culled from a fully realized, brand-specific soundtrack." 
A soundtrack  sure enough.  Soon one will be able to select the sounds ranging from rock band to symphony for appliances.  Spare me, that's all I need, multiple appliances all sounding off at once if the power surges.  I suppose I am now over the hill, I prefer my appliances merely perform as agreed, their specific function and be seen and not heard so much.  But research, development and new marketers disagree and so stay tuned, coming soon to a store near you...."As appliances continue to move away from tactile buttons to touch-sensitive ones, electronic sounds are essential for giving us the feedback we need to work efficiently in the kitchen.  But when you look at some of the greater trends in appliance design, sound becomes important in ways that extend beyond basic functionality. David Bingham, a designer who’s heading up the sound initiative at GE, explained that as appliances become more "minimal" and "modern" in their visual appearance, sound will become an increasingly integral part of the package. "There’s a lot more social activity happening in the kitchen space," Bingham explains, and in response we can expect to see see appliances that are "much more integrated in their design." As dishwashers and the rest give up competing with cabinets and countertopssensitivity toward the material selection, and a focus on the experiential details, like what we’re now looking at with sound."  Monogram, GE’s super high-end line, Bingham and his team composed a classy piano number--subdued, but not lazy. "It’s not a lackadaisical piano, Bingham says, "it does have some purpose and feeling."
Just what I always never knew I  wanted a player piano in my dishwasher!  I will soon need to record an index or data base for the distinctive sound to each  appliance and gadget much as I do now with my binder of computer site passwords because I will not remember all of them and for protction each must be distinct.   What's that my refrigerator sings "Your Cold Cold Heart" and my microwave "Zippity Do Dah".   Who ever thought life would be quieter and simpler with modern appliances?  We laughed the other day when the phone rang and Jerry picked up the remote control for the ktichen TV instead of the kitchen wireless phone! 


  1. I had to laugh, funny how following something like this sitting here you want to chime in try this and try that! I was waiting for your beep to be one that puzzled me a few weeks ago, and it wasn't one of the grandchildren's toys running out of juice or chirping to remind you to shut it off. No this was really cool, and one that was really hard to detect where exactly it was. My daughter had a friend who some how let her iPad fall between the cushions of the couch (well her 2 year old son actually) had been playing with it, and the beep and pause and beep which went on for like 3 days before her friend called to ask if we found her iPad- then it all made sense.....and bingo there it was slipped behind the cushions!

  2. oh yes, Karen childrens toys with low batteries would add another chorus to the sounds. My "not so smart phone" chirps weakly, vibrates and tries to flash a light. I try to plug it in nightly but if I forget in the AM there it is dancing almost quivering out of juice but still trying to get my attention.

  3. EMAIL FROM TOM: Amusing story. One, I am sure, must be repeated many times across the country. I'm thinking that maybe I'll lose the rest of my hearing before those new, noisy appliances start showing up at our place. There are times when I simply turn the hearing aid, or aids, down or off because of the incessant drivel of Carol's TV. I often only wear one which is occasionally annoying in not being able to locate the direction sound is coming from.

  4. EMAIL from Sandy (my CA friend who neither has web presence nor online links but and who sends news clippings, snail mail to me, supporting the USPS: LOL!!!! Wait until I mail the article from this week-ends paper!!! it'll be where, how did that get here????

  5. Perhaps, with all their clever ability to create a cacaphony of beeps and other melodious sounds, they could create a sound that eminates form each separate appliance like: check fridge, check dish washer, check washer; dryer etc. Maybe too simple?

  6. Oh how right on , Rel..they'll never do that.