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Opinion

Keys: What Are They Good For?

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keys 1I’m all for technology, especially any technology that makes life easier — like keyless entry and push button starting systems, to name a few.

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As time marches on, certain things of a mechanical nature will be lost to electronics. Fewer cars are being manufactured that still have keys. Some only have a key fob and no metal or brass backup at all. Soon you won’t even need those fobs, either; everything will be programmed and controlled by your smartphone. What about the poor old lonely key we all grew up with? I guess it’s gone the way of the bench seat and wing windows.

We’ve reached a stage with technology where the simple act of turning a mechanical lock can been accomplished by RF signals and a few electrons. So before our car keys get lost somewhere in the archives of a forgotten age, or end up under glass at some museum, I’d like to salute our faithful old friend, the key, for all the things it has accomplished. It has done so much more for us than simply starting and opening our car. Can a smartphone, or one of those funny looking key fobs, double as a bottle opener, scratch an itch or tighten a loose screw? But keys do have their drawbacks. A key can poke you, scratch your smartphone and even butt-dial your ex-girlfriend.

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Let’s not forget to mention the key’s sidekicks, all those dangly items that people attach to their key rings that do nothing more than weigh them down. Where are all those things going to go now? No keys, no key ring, no more dangly “whatchamacallits” for the mechanic to sort through to find the ignition key.

Of course, there is one thing a lot of people would love to see disappear: those nasty scrape marks left when somebody keys your car. I seriously doubt anyone would try to drag a cell phone across a car in the hopes of creating the same degree of damage.

While a key will eventually wear out, so does your phone. The key can be recopied, but when a phone wears out or is damaged, there’s a possibility of never retrieving all the information stored in it. One of those bits of data might be your car’s security coding. Aww, shucks, looks like a trip to the dealer for you.

At least with a worn key you might have been able to perform the old jiggle and wiggle to get the key to turn. Even with a bad key, eventually you could get the car to start. With a smartphone, well, you can jiggle and wiggle all you want, but I don’t think it’s going to help.

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I don’t want to leave out the bulbous key fobs that a lot of the imports have gone to, either. When it comes to these items, I can’t think of any suitable second purpose they’ll ever have in their lifetime besides maybe as a paperweight. Not like the humble key with its thousands and thousands of uses.

In some respects, I’m going to miss having an ignition key, fobs, mini mace cans and all those other attached trinkets. I’m sure the key won’t entirely go away as we know it, but for the car, it might be on its last turn of the door lock. No more symbolic tossing of the keys to your teenager when they get their first car. No more heading to the local hardware store to make a spare copy of grandma’s keys just in case she can’t remember where she put her set. All that will soon be history. I say, “Long live the key!” I remember what they’re good for.  

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