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Clear answers to shopper's fuzzy questions: Rhys Williams goes in search of hi-tech on the high street and gets a lesson on simple logic

Set the Rollei Prego camera to 'fuzzy' mode and what do you get? A clearer, sharper picture, of course. And that's logic?

Colin at Tecno on Euston Road in London, who will let you have this canny piece of tackle for pounds 200, grimaced: 'Look, 'fuzzy logic' is just a buzzword nicked from the computer world to describe a bit of new technology.' He leant forward and hissed: 'It's a load of bollocks really.'

According to the manual, it 'computes correctly exposed and sharp photos by optimising the focal length, flash and shutter speed in accordance with the exposure situation'. Meaning? Well, if you take a photo of someone standing against a bright light - like the sun - the camera can remove the bright elements that distort its readings and take a perfect portrait.

Fuzzy Logic follows Chaos Theory as the latest philosophical fad. It is founded on the idea that there is very little black and white in the world, but an awful lot of grey - a blinding glimpse of the obvious which seems set to spawn a whole new generation of 'smart' technology. Already they are talking of a brave new world where hyper-intelligent washing machines will hunt down lost single socks and root out the rogue black underpants hidden in the sleeves of white shirts.

Still confused? I was. Only one place for it - John Lewis in Brent Cross Shopping Centre, north London. Never knowingly undersold, so probably never knowingly not in the know about anything.

Mrs Philpott in White Goods explained that fuzzy logic had nothing to do with putting too much Comfort in with the woollies. 'Basically, on a Bosch washing machine, the 'fuzzy logic' option means that it can work out if the load is out of balance and then adjust itself before spinning. Apparently it can even tell what fabric the clothes are made of. Don't ask me how, that's what the rep told me. Could you get this gentleman a brochure, please?' The brochure tells you that the fuzzy option is 'new', 'easy to use' and costs pounds 50 extra.

'Can you tell me about fuzzy logic please,' I asked an assistant at Dixons. First assistant: 'What the bloody hell is that then?'

'Not sure, but it's advertised as a special feature on that pounds 599 Sanyo camcorder behind you.'

Assistant: 'Oh, right. Oi, Eddie, what is 'fuzzy logic'?'

Eddie: 'Er, I don't know. Jerry, what is fuzzy logic?'

Jerry to Eddie: 'It's a system of focusing whereby the camcorder takes its metering from across the whole frame rather than just one point in the middle. It means you get a better picture.'

Eddie: 'Right. It's a system which, um, gives you a better picture.'


Eddie: 'Jerry, can you look after this customer please?'

Same chain, different branch, and an assistant keener to live up to his job title. 'It's very simple really,' Keith at Moorfields in the City began, hopefully. 'Most camcorders operate on pure logic, which means they work on a simple yes/no basis. So when the camera says 'yes', the subject is in focus. But it might be that when it says 'yes', the subject is not quite in focus. Fuzzy logic allows the camera to take a second look. It memorises the readings from the first look and then adjusts a little bit either way to see if it can improve the picture. It basically acts like a human being.'

And that is fuzzy logic.

(Photograph omitted)