Here I go again. I just can’t get over all these new gadgets, and I keep ordering more. Wi-Fi lightbulbs, plugs, and now an Echo Dot. It’s like being a kid again. One reason I write about this stuff is because I want to encourage older folks (like me) to be more adventurous and take advantage of these gizmos. They can make our lives easier, more enjoyable, and safer.
I bought an Echo Dot — a small round speaker with a microphone that connects to the Amazon Alexa app. They also included a Wi-Fi lightbulb for me to play with. We have a table lamp in the living room with a dying three-way switch. Those bulbs can be pricey and hard to find.
I already had the Alexa app installed to run my mom’s Echo Show — a larger version of Dot, but with a small screen and camera. I can “drop in” from my phone and check on her. She can also call anyone in my phone contacts by just asking Alexa. I also have a camera that covers the living and dining rooms, part of kitchen and my mom’s bedroom door. I can talk to her through that camera as well, when she’s out there.
So, that funky living room lamp is now voice-controlled by Alexa. I am also able to dim it, select different “whites” or even colors. The switch on the cord of our dining room chandelier went bad and I tried unsuccessfully to replace it. I had another Wi-Fi plug, so I repaired the wire, and used that plug for the chandelier. My mother always had a devil of a time using the other switch anyway, and she loves commanding Alexa to turn on the dining room light. But she always remembers to say “thank-you.”
Back to the new Echo Dot. I hooked it up next to my reading chair in the living room, and what a treat! It also turns on the LED light strip on the stairs, and if I have to get up at night, I just tell Alexa to turn on the stairs and living room light. I bought even more plugs and used one for the Christmas tree. No more bending down to unplug it anymore.
So, I bought some more bulbs. I put two in our master bedroom lamps, which also had failing three-way switches. On my way up the stairs I can turn them both on by voice, rather than grope around in the dark. And I can dim them too. I already use one of these plugs with my swamp cooler, which makes life easier in the summer.
But the real fun is sitting in my chair with a book, then – “Alexa, play instrumental classical background music” or “jazz” or whatever I want. I asked if she had any Jean-Luc Ponty, and she started playing something. If I tell her I like a song, and she’ll save that information, or skip something I don’t like – or shuffle. And what’s really cool is that if I ask her the name of the tune and the artist, she can tell me.
I asked for Sarah Brightman the other morning and then heard 30 minutes from “Phantom” along with some other tunes. She also can play Jefferson Public Radio, or any streaming station. I don’t have to use the app on my phone to listen – and that little Echo speaker actually sounds pretty good. The Alexa app even has an equalizer to adjust the sound.
I sometimes feel like I’m on the bridge of the Enterprise with all this tech. “Computer” (aka Alexa) “fix my favorite lunch.” Maybe not yet, but soon. And she’ll probably have the robot do it.
Corky Pickering and his wife relocated from the Bay Area to Cottonwood in 2014. He retired from the federal government as an attorney advising law enforcement. He has been a rock and roll bass player and a Marine JAG. He can be reached at email@example.com.