Love it. Hate it. Need it. Americans are ambivalent about their cell phones, TV sets and the like. They rely on such everyday technology, but it drives them nuts. At the top of the list? The cell phone.
An annual Massachusetts Institute of Technology (search) survey, known as the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index (search), found that among adults asked what invention they hate most but can't live without, 30 percent said the cell phone.
Alarm clocks were a close second, with 25 percent, followed by the television with 23 percent and razors with 14 percent. Microwave ovens, computers and answering machines also earned spots as detested technology.
The survey has been conducted for the past eight years to gauge public opinion toward inventions, inventors and technology.
"The interconnectedness you get from the cell phone is a very positive thing, and I think that's one of the most important things, the bringing together of people. The downside of that is that you sometimes want to be alone," said Lemelson Center Director Merton C. Flemings.
The random telephone survey of 1,023 adults and 500 teenagers was conducted Nov. 12-19 by Princeton, N.J.-based Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch (search) and was released Wednesday.
Ninety-five percent of the adults surveyed felt that inventions had improved the quality of their lives.
A handy invention — a two-way radio — allowed Bob Dillon, 51, and his companion Deborah Bleau, 44, to keep tabs on Bleau's 12-year-old daughter, Kate, and Kate's two friends, as all five strolled through downtown Boston on a recent visit.
Bleau said it was hard to find fault with the technology keeping her in constant touch with her daughter, and Dillon did not find much to criticize about cell phones, other than their pesky habit of going off in public places.
But Dillon said he had a love-hate relationship with television. He ditched his television years ago. Now, he, Bleau, and Bleau's daughter have a TV in their Latham, N.Y., home, but it is used only for watching movies.
"It's not hooked into any kind of broadcast or anything like that, primarily because it's so invasive, and can take over your life," he said. "But it's a double-edged sword. I miss the History Channel."
Jaime Wasserman, 26, of Boston, walked through Quincy Market with her cell phone pressed to her ear.
"I love technology. There's really nothing that irritates me. I love it all. Computers, television," she said. "An alarm clock? You need an alarm clock. People who hate it are probably lazy people who just don't feel like getting up in the morning."