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But does Verizon provide the dancing speaker?

January 3, 2012, 11:30 PM

So while I was out on New Year’s Eve, I saw a commercial on TV for Verizon Home Monitoring and Control, which apparently controls door locks, turns the lights on and off, monitors energy systems, allows one to adjust the thermostat, and allows one to monitor activity in the house via cameras. All of this can be done remotely online. I saw this, and I was like, “They’ve created TXL!”

Yes, that TXL:

TXL Series 4, from "Babies"

Think about it for a moment. Controls door locks: TXL does that. Turns the lights on and off: TXL does that, too. Monitoring energy systems: another feather in TXL’s cap. Thermostat control: another TXL feature, even on the early version (but don’t spill drinks on her keyboard). And remote cameras: TXL is programmed to survey the store with remote cameras and supply any and all information required. However, Verizon doesn’t seem to provide music out of the box. TXL did after her upgrade in 1984:

The "Yo He Ho" speaker

TXL’s speaker danced around, though it only ever played one song, and that was “Yo He Ho”.

The only major thing that Verizon has over TXL is that with Verizon’s services, you can monitor and control all of the various functions from anywhere via the Internet. To run all of the various services via TXL, you actually had to be in the computer room, typing commands in on the keyboard (TXL lacked a mouse). However, considering all of the things that TXL could do, I’m sure that a modern day Sam Crenshaw would be able to pull out a TXL tablet device and operate an ultramodern TXL Series 7 computer – an upgrade from the earlier and less reliable TXL Series Vista – and do everything from that regardless of whether he’s in the Computer Room, the Children’s Department, or even out fishing with old friend Kevin O’Reilly (how do!).

I, however, would be a little wary about giving electronic devices that much control over my house. If something is configured wrong, you might think you’re locking the door, but you’ve actually left the door wide open. And that could mean the difference between finding your electronic toys where they belong, or finding them for sale on the black market. Or what if your Internet connection goes down and you can’t control your thermostat? Raises a little concern. Or what if someone hacks into your account? Then a stranger might be able to control all of your equipment, plus verify if you’re home or not.

Then of course, this is also me we’re talking about. It’s not that hard to get the computer to do something strange. Thus this would be me: I sit down, with the intention of setting the thermostat and lighting before leaving for work. Log in, click, click, click, and…

"Oh, no, no, no, I'm sorry..."

And I like my neighbors too much to leave them listening to the same song all day. Then I’d be on the phone with Verizon trying to stop the system:

"TXL, please, how do I turn everything off?! Tell me!"
“TXL, please, how do I turn everything off?! Tell me!”
“Press ‘off’, Mr. Crenshaw.”
“Oh, sure, secret computer language, I just press ‘off’. Okay, here goes: OFF!”

Maybe that’s a little extreme, but I can see a number of reasons why I wouldn’t want to have such a system in my house. Seems like a little bit too much control to electronics, and too much potential for these things to go wrong. Especially when I remember a couple of notable failures of building systems that led to a lot of headache. Back in 2001, Potomac Hall’s card access system went down one night for whatever reason, and no one could get into the building with their student ID card, which was the primary method of getting into the building. All of us on the hall staff had to work shifts on the door to let people in as needed. Then in another instance, the link had gone down between the central system and the local system, and the doors were stuck unlocked. That was four hours of my life that I’ll never get back while keeping watch while everything was stuck open. Something about all of these systems’ having the ability to ruin my day would make me a touch uneasy. Especially when we’re talking about a company that had three big network outages in a month’s time.

So all in all, as fun as it would be to have the modern day equivalent of the TXL Series 4 computer at home, I think I can pass it up.

Web site: Earth Techling article about Verizon Home Monitoring and Control

Song: "I said, 'The sea is quiet once again!' Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, the sea is quiet once again!" - Sam turns off the Yo He Ho speaker and gets himself in trouble while doing so.

Quote: "I am not a machine! I am a TXL Series 4 computer. I am programmed to survey the store with remote cameras and supply any and all information required. Example: 3,267 hats available in the store. [...] Plus one ridiculous looking ski cap. Chuckle. Chuckle." - TXL on what she does.

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