Dear gadget makers, we're not dumb

At CES, the word "smart" pervades almost every major booth. The suggestion is clear: You and your current equipment are dumb. How very geeky.

LAS VEGAS--I have come to the conclusion that I am stupid. Dumb as a post. Thick as two short planks. Four chips short of a circuit board.

What has finally brought this grim realization? All these nerds telling me how smart they are.

The nerds who have squeezed the final milliliter of self-confidence from my pores are the ones who make the gadgets here at CES.

Because they keep on telling me how smart they are. Which must mean that I am a blunt pencil. Everywhere I look around the Vegas exhibition halls, the word "smart" strikes me like a schoolteacher who just doesn't like the cut of my glib.

Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Within mere minutes this morning, I had to endure Samsung telling me their TVs are "smart." I had to tolerate Hisense telling me the same thing. As the waters of self-doubt began to well in my emotive core, there was a company called TCL. They make smart TVs.

Staggering away, I lifted my head for a moment, to immediately be told that Panasonic had "smart solutions."

I ran for cover into the Bluetooth booth. A mistake. For they make smart watches. I suddenly felt a deep need to go home. Another dumb mistake. For there was Toshiba to inform me that only it offers "a life design service for smart homes."

I have no Toshiba products. I have no life design service. I don't even know what that is. So even my home is dumb.

Some might attribute these hammer blows of smartness to marketing laziness. I fear, though, that it starts with some high-up engineer bellowing in marketing's ear: "Don't forget to tell them how smart we are."

"Smart", though, carries with it a sense of smugness. It suggests a need to tell you how clever someone (or thing) is, rather than showing you--or even better, letting you experience it.

The ubiquity of the term "smart phone" has probably emboldened all gadget makers to believe that it is an essential word, one that denotes something everyone desires.

Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

They're mistaken. We in the real world want something that works, that delights, that is simple to use. We don't want something that makes us feel bad about ourselves because we can't get it to do anything--or worse, because we can't even work out what it does.

Why can't Samsung and friends find names for their new, ingenious boxes? Janice, for example. Or Hal. Wouldn't you rather stare at Janice, rather than something that is just oh-so-very-much smarter than you?

One can't help thinking that this whole gadget business rather relies on making mere mortals feel dumb. If you don't buy this smart TV, you have the IQ of a blue toad. If you don't buy this smartphone, you're so dumb that even a reality show wouldn't have you.

Beaten across my brows to within one click of applying to Florida State, I happened upon a large crowd outside the LG booth.

"HOW SMART IS YOUR 3D?" the sign bellowed.

So now I'm dumb because I've got last year's 3D? But I don't even have 3D. How dumb does that make me?

Dumb enough not to want to wear silly little glasses to watch TV, I suppose.

Chris Matyszczyk/CNET
 

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