Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Things Kate hates #432: "Red Noise"

"Red Noise" is what I call the high-pitched whine emitted by some electronic devices.

Red noise is amazingly common, and becoming more so as electronic devices invade every conceivable nook and cranny of the world. I often leave a restaurant and discover that I was feeling cranky at dinner because one of the 700 billion electronic devices was buzzing its way slowly and inexorably into my skull. The library uses red noise to scare birds away from its gigantic windows. Even the brick for my laptop produces a whine when it heats up.

I once spent a week searching for the source of an extremely loud, high-pitched noise in my living room. No one else can hear it, which lent a certain tinge of insanity to the whole thing (I have unusually good hearing for someone my age--I had to get a hearing test because I have terrible tinnitus and my hearing is "extraordinary"). After unplugging nearly everything in our (tech-heavy) house, I tracked the noise to the mini touch screen monitor connected to our server, which we now leave turned off unless we're using the computer.

The latest whine in my life is particularly unusual, because there isn't even a physical device involved. It accompanies the financial report on CNBC (I don't actually watch said financial report, but it plays on the tv at the coffee shop I frequent)--they have a neon (slime) green slider graphic, which creates a whine every time it slides back and forth. I know--a digital graphic of a slider doesn't actually slide and thus the slider itself doesn actually make noise. But that's kind of the point--there is absolutely no physical reason for this graphic to make a noise, and yet it does.

So my question is, why don't businesses work harder to eliminate these noises? Is it just that they don't know about it (though surely the 19 year old restaurant wait staff can hear it?) or do they not care? Are young people just less likely to complain than old people? Do they figure that enough Red Noise will eventually yield White Noise?

Anyway, I'm starting a revolution. I just wrote an email to CNBC about their stupid graphic. Die red noise! Die!

4 comments:

Jack said...

Do you ever hear it on the same channel but other locations? On multiple TV sets at that shop?

I've noted a correlation between loud (though not necessarily high pitched) noise and white on a screen. I'm curious about the green.

Althea said...

I had a similar problem with the videoconferencing equipment in Randall. It made a very loud, very high pitched noise that no once else could hear. Very annoying.

I suppose this will be one good part of aging :)

kate said...

Jack--I checked today. The noise doesn't happen when they stand in front of a giant LCD covered with stock prices in bright green squares, or when they show a bright green arrow graphic (what is with them and slime green?). Nor does it occur when the (white) stock ticker is going at the bottom of the screen. It's just the sliders and (strangely) the bright green graph that follows the sliders. I think that it is a problem with that particular graphic.

Colleen said...

Do you know about synesthesia?

Is it possible that you can "hear" visual images?

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14459-screensaver-reveals-new-test-for-synaesthesia.html