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Chapter 1. Riddles for the Information A... > What Do You Get When You Cross a Com...

What Do You Get When You Cross a Computer with an Alarm Clock?

A computer! I just purchased an expensive new clock-radio for my bedroom, a JVC FS-2000. It has a very sophisticated computer brain and offers high fidelity, digital sound, and lots of features. It wakes me up at a preset time by playing a CD, and it has the delicacy and intelligence to slowly fade up the volume when it begins to play at 6:00 a.m. This feature is really pleasant and quite unique, and it compensates for the fact that I want to hurl the infuriating machine out the window.

It's very hard to tell when the alarm is armed, so it occasionally fails to wake me up on a Monday and rousts me out of bed early on a Saturday. Sure, it has an indicator to show the alarm is set, but that doesn't mean it's useful. The clock has a sophisticated alphanumeric LCD that displays all of its many functions. The presence of a small clock symbol in the upper-left corner of the LCD indicates the alarm is armed, but in a dimly lit bedroom the clock symbol cannot be seen. The LCD has a built-in backlight that makes the clock symbol visible, but the backlight only comes on when the CD or radio is explicitly turned on. There's a gotcha, however: The alarm simply won't ever sound while the CD is explicitly left on, regardless of the setting of the alarm. It is this paradoxical operation that frequently catches me unawares.


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