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The age of push-button inconvenience

This is the only portable compact-disc player that has a wireless remote control. The player has a 16-program random memory and uses a 3-beam laser to read the encoded digital signals from 23 feet away. Excerpt from an advertisement AT what point did the push button go click in the ex-yuppie's head? - the push button that said, ``Life has too many push buttons.'' The push button that made the ex-yuppie ex.

Perhaps it was when he received an electric push-button tie rack for his birthday - a little wonder that not only revolved 72 ties into view in 25 seconds but illuminated them with a 1.5-watt bulb so his wife could sleep while the ex-yuppie made the morning's first big decision.

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Or perhaps the breaking-point occurred when the ex-yuppie, with his tie of choice neatly knotted, stepped into his push-button-lined car to go to work. As part of the ``package,'' he had been forced to purchase an awesomely sophisticated stereo system. The ``Electronic Tuner,'' as it was dubbed, crammed 14 push buttons - count 'em! - in an eight-inch space. With your little finger, preferably, you could push a button to sharpen the treble or deepen the bass. Elementary. But you could also push a button for ``Loud'' or a button for ``Sensitive.'' A ``Seek'' button tuned in the next station automatically, and so on.

Still, how could Mario Andretti himself operate this mini-console while propelling himself from lane to lane at 65 mph? - the minimum speed, as everybody knows, for those race tracks known as our national highways. The ``Electronic Tuner'' is unsafe at any speed - even if you push that other button: ``Cruise Control.''

Perhaps the push button that pushed the ex-yuppie over the brink was one of the 25 ``dedicated function keys'' confronting him on his office telephone. This is not counting the usual letter-and-number keys with which one could still place an old-fashioned call. But why bother? If one has the ``capability,'' one simply has to organize conference calls whether there is anything to confer about or not, while - ecstasy! - putting the rest of the world on hold.

Push buttons the ex-yuppie came to see, are hard work. To utilize them, bulky instruction manuals in turgid English have to be read - written by the same folks who used to confuse you with instructions for assembling children's toys.

The inconvenience it requires to make use of a mechanical convenience! The time it takes to save time!

If the truth be known, it was the proliferation of remote control push buttons that finally disillusioned the ex-yuppie. Select TV channels? OK. Raise the garage door? Fine. But flip the sides on a compact disc player from 23 feet away?

The remote control button suddenly seemed sinister to the ex-yuppie. First came the machine, distancing the human being from labor. Then came the remote control button, distancing a person - from the machine. Push buttons on your push buttons! Where would it all end?

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Machines, the ex-yuppie decided, have become overqualified. They not only give you more service than you need but more than you want.

Young though he is, the ex-yuppie can remember when push buttons were for the incapacitated - people unable to do things by hand. Now push buttons threaten to immobilize the young with their chic.

The push button is the ultimate flashy symbol of power, the ex-yuppie concluded, and at that moment he became an ex-yuppie. He is still too much of a realist to believe that he can turn back his watch - with all the push buttons - to a time before the Push-Button Age. But he does enjoy fantasizing a super push button that would switch off all the other push buttons - especialy the push buttons controlling The Bombs. What a magic wand that would be! Alakazaam! A Wednesday and Friday column

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