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Jeep Wrangler & Old Jeep CJ-2A - Dr. Vern

Posted in Features on April 1, 2007
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At some point in the future, historians will launch a careful study of the decline and fall of Western civilization. Let's hope considerable time passes before this happens. Keep in mind I'm talking about not only the study of the subject but also the actual decline and fall. Plenty of debate will center on the cause. Was it the square headlights on the Wrangler? As much as that sounds like the prime culprit, that is only a symptom of society's malaise, not the cause.

I've always thought the alarm clock snooze button had pointed society down that slippery slope. With the reward of more sleep, even a lab rat would become addicted to the snooze button. (Editor's Note: Hey, some of us like to wake up slowly. I even found a smoke alarm with a snooze button.) After donning my orthopedic thinking cap, I think I understand the root cause of the decline: the computer password. I'll vouch for the wonderful benefits of computers, such as the ease of online shopping for necessities like Jeep parts. However, as our brains become mush due to so much online activity, the citizens of the world will likely forget every last stinking user name and password ever created. The situation is bad enough with e-mail and credit cards. What will happen when vehicles require passwords too?

Don't get me wrong, because I like modern conveniences. Still, if a little bit of something is good, that doesn't mean more is always better. Consider the remote control key fob, an invention after my own heart. Kids acting up in a restaurant? Simply send 'em out to the car. (Please note this only applies to your own children because other parents don't take kindly when you treat their kids this way. Don't ask.) With a remote, your little hooligans can unlock the doors by themselves but, fortunately, can't start the engine.

Had progress stopped with a remote that unlocks the doors, the risk to civilization would have been minimal. Sadly, some engineers have already created a product that nobody had requested. The latest generation of remotes not only unlocks the doors but can also fire up the engine. The next step will be to eliminate keys or the remote completely and control these functions through a dashboard touchscreen. Expect some teething problems while the designers try to figure out how to unlock the doors to access the touchscreen, but that is a minor detail. The downside is that, before long, a password will be required to start the engine.

Laugh all you want, but don't think you or your Jeep can remain useful in a world teeming with passwords. My old CJ-2A, for example, doesn't even have doors. The ignition lock is a mere formality, as any juvenile delinquent or budding magazine editor could easily hotwire the system with nothing more than ambition and a paper clip. My Jeep will never have a password problem, but not so with the purchase of fuel and spare parts. I suspect that paying with cash will one day become a thing of the past, so I'd better have my PIN memorized. Eventually, my bank will insist I pay for my purchases, so I'll have to remember my user name and password simply to remit payment.

Here's another way to look at the situation. Tip your head about 30 degrees to the right and squint. OK, that probably didn't help much, so let's try yet another way to look at this. Imagine you and your Jeep buddies are hopelessly lost, far beyond the reaches of civilization. Only in magazines do we see Jeepers carrying welders, tools galore, and all conceivable spare parts. Meanwhile, back in the real world, the typical trail ride is more like a yahoo convention, with each person assuming that everybody else brought plenty of survival gear. Once the food runs out and despair sets in, it will be time to decide who to have for dinner-and I don't mean as a guest. In an extended survival situation, folks like mechanics or chefs are safe because their skills would be needed. At the other extreme, heaven forbid that you're a computer security consultant. Start slathering yourself with meat tenderizer if you're the guy who decreed all passwords must be changed monthly and contain a mix of numbers, symbols, and upper- and lowercase letters. The key to survival is to never be the least popular person on a trail ride. That might be tough because the guy responsible for the Wrangler's square headlights probably knows enough to stay home.-Dr. Vern

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