Yesterday I finally got around to resetting the clock on my answering machine at home after the big power failure we had recently, when I noticed this oddity for the first time: it prompts for day of the week, time of day, and year. No month, no date. As I write this, according to my answering machine, it’s Thursday, 12:14pm, 2007.
This year it will be Thursday at 12:14pm fifty-two times. Not having the month or date is a real obstacle to knowing which one is meant. And when I play back my answering-machine messages, the machine says, “Thursday. Twelve. Fourteen. PM.” No year. Furthermore, while knowing the year would allow the machine to compute whether February has 28 days or 29 (assuming the machine knew or cared about the month and date), it makes no difference to the progression of days of the week.
So why does it prompt for the year? How will it know when it should change to 2008?
Upon reflection I can think of only one reason — an evil one — for requiring the user to enter the year: programmed obsolescence. When it gets to be perhaps 2009 — 731 days, more or less, after the user sets it to 2007 (that’s 365×2 days, plus one for leap year) — maybe AT&T plans to have a new model out so my answering machine will just stop working and I’ll have to buy a new one.
Which begs the question: why, knowing or suspecting all these things, did I obediently set the machine’s year to 2007?