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Gadgets are both our slaves and masters. They enable us to get places without maps (GPS), stay in constant contact (cell phones and other handheld devices) and work in ways (computers) unimaginable just years ago.

Yet they can occupy a great amount of time trying to get them to work. I’ve never encountered an electronic device that is set up and working in the brief steps outlined in the “easy set-up guide” available in 10 languages.

My recent discovery of the secret to technology, however, has been helpful. Such a claim may seem odd coming from one whose education is so thoroughly liberal arts — though I did hang around budding engineers for a long time.

The technological secret is (drumroll, please): no matter what you have at the time of set-up, you will need one more thing.

One more thing. Always one more thing.

No longer will I unbox, unwrap and begin assembling any new electronic product with the assumption that it will be working immediately. Instead, I will begin with the clear understanding that I am embarking on the first of a two-stage process.

I might even wonder aloud about what one more thing could be needed for this new gadget to actually work.

For example, the new projector I plan to use for a Power Point presentation next week doesn’t work with my Mac laptop until I get — one more thing. In this case, an Apple mini DVI to VGA adapter had to be ordered.

A foolish attempt to avoid the technological secret failed. The adapter the sales clerk sold us for this purpose doesn’t fit my MacBook Pro laptop. So never assume that the “one more thing” can be predicted ahead of removing the product at home and beginning its assembly.

My theory was validated again over the weekend when I replaced an aging TV with a new HD, flat-screen version. The delivery was swift; the product arrived in perfect condition; and all went together like a charm.

Then I went to the cable television store and picked up the converter box — and managed to connect the right cables to the right holes on the first try.

But only one channel appeared. I mean, even in the olden days we got three.

The tech support person on the phone said I needed to use the remote control that came with the converter box, not the one for the TV.

But I was not given a remote control.

“Are you near the store?” she asked.

“No. And I really don’t want to go back and stand in line for something I should have been given while there,” I said nicely but firmly.

She offered to have a technician drop one by my house.

“Nice person,” I thought.

In about an hour, she called back to say such a courtesy would result in a fee for a service call. To her benefit I was not the one who answered the phone.

So during lunchtime yesterday I stopped by the cable TV store to get the remote control that should have been given to me there over the weekend or delivered to my house. But, then, if I had received it two days ago, my theory would have failed.

Because, when it comes to world of technology there is always one more thing.

But, really, this is nothing new. How many Christmas presents from long ago sat silent for awhile because we didn’t have the right size batteries?

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