Ok, I’m starting to think that some tech is just done for tech’s sake, not because it makes sense. Some things make a lot of sense, like the electric hand dryers that use infrared to turn on when you put your hands under them. That’s a good idea. It saves electricity, it reduces your exposure to germs by contact, it avoids electrocution by touching a 220 volt appliance with wet hands while standing on a wet floor – it just makes good sense.

Some things I’m not so sure about. Take, for instance, an infrared-operated soap dispenser. Ok, maybe some of the same considerations apply, like germs, but you were about to wash your hands anyway. But how high-tech does it need to be? Does it really require that much tech to squirt a little soap on your hands? A simple push-button squirt has been just fine for a long time, doesn’t require batteries or electricity, and just works until you need to refill it. Maybe if it would refill itself…

Ok, some people think it’s cool, and worth the extra money and maintenance. What about electronically operated, infrared-triggered paper towel dispensers? I almost didn’t believe it when my sons told me there was one in the restroom at the airport. Sure enough, you walk up, wave your hand in front of it, and Presto! Out pops a too-small square of paper towel. No problem, wave your hand in front of it again, and – nothing.

Oh. It’s smart. It doesn’t want some little kid standing there, waving his hands in front of it all day, spewing yards of paper towel out on the floor. So you have to tear it off, then you can wave your hands in front of it again and get another little square of towel. If you’re careful, you can even give it a little tug and get it to spit out another one without tearing it off first.

So exactly how is this an improvement over the mechanical dispensers where you just pull down the end of the paper towel and it just tears off at the next perforation? Or the stacks of single towels in the dispenser? Other than the fact that someone went to a lot of trouble to get it to work by infrared?

Which one of these dispensers will break first? And which one will cost more to fix or replace? And this is an improvement?

Kinda reminds me of some of the space-age technology back during the space race. The Americans spent millions of dollars developing a ball-point pen that used pressurized gas to ensure that ink would continue to flow from the pen whether writing right-side-up, horizontally, inverted, or even in zero-gee. Amazing technology!

The Russians simply used a pencil.