Like many of you, I’m visiting family this holiday season and nowhere does gadget snobbery become more apparent than at gatherings with loved ones. Apart from the ubiquitous “Which phone is the fastest?” » question, which in my case led to an email race over Christmas dinner, there is endless potential for the mildly tech-savvy people to show up over the holidays.
But all the superiority gained from being able to load non-iTunes purchases into your mother’s iPod is thrown out the window in the face of a parent’s overly complex coffee machine, an arbitrarily complicated alarm clock, and two separate indecipherable TV remotes for A television.
When I first encountered my family’s new Cuisinart CHW-12 Cup Programmable Coffee Maker with Hot Water System, I ended up confused by the superfluous “hot water system” and poured the water meant for coffee instead of the coffee maker, which cost me an extra 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get coffee out of the hellish thing. I almost went to Starbucks.
Many people received iPads and iPhones this Christmas and, thanks to Apple’s legendary intuitive and simple design, were able to take them out of the box and start using them. This is not the case with a battery operated pepper mill that a relative of mine received during our gift exchange. It took three people to put it together and when we got it working we hilariously realized there was a flashlight at the bottom for no reason. Novel? Yes. Productive? No.
At home, I use a De’Longhi Magnifica espresso machine, which is the closest thing to what would happen if Apple made a coffee machine. With the push of a button, it grinds coffee beans, brews them and even cleans itself afterwards.
I’m not alone in the quest for simpler device design, Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror is also confused by a microwave’s control interface:
“I was struck the other day by how much thinking I had to do when trying to reheat my sandwich in the microwave. There are so many controls: a clock, a set of food-specific buttons, defrost and timer controls, and of course a full numeric keypad. Fast! What are you pressing? »
The sad thing is that the household appliances were simpler. Old-fashioned microwaves had a button, which only represented the time. Now we have controls for various foods and buttons for ‘More’, ‘Less’, ‘Dinner Plate’, ‘Defrost’, the cryptic ‘Auto-Defrost’ and so on when all we end up doing is of putting our Hot Pockets in there and trial and error to find the perfect cooking time. “Hmm, looks like it’s almost over.”
Dieter Ram’s device designs for Braun, which inspired Apple’s design team, hearken to a pre-digital touchpad era where design aspired to help us understand products or at least be unobtrusive. I guess I have the 70s to thank for the fact that I have a clock radio next to me right now that I’ve never used because I really can’t figure out how to set the controls so that it wake me upstairs. I use my iPhone.
Notice that the title of this article is not “All devices must be made by Apple” or even “All computers must be made by Apple” (or the byline would be something like “MG Siegler”). There are times in life when you need a PC, but there aren’t many when you need your coffee maker to also heat water for tea, your pepper holder to serve as a flashlight or a remote control to turn on your TV and another to change channels.
Image: Coding Horror