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Fri Nov 5, 2021, 12:34 PM

I love technology, but...

Sometimes, it is overcomplicated. That's really annoying at times, but many consumer goods today ignore the idea that simple needs do not need complex setup and operational controls. Things have too many features today, most of which are not needed by most people.

It's not that I'm incapable of operating even the most complex technology. I've been around it since before most of it was created. I've written technical and user manuals for much of today's tech stuff, and countless magazine articles to help consumers make the best use of computers, phones, peripherals and even tools.

The thing is that some devices do very simple things and should have simple controls for consumers.

For example, the other night, in the dark, I managed to press one of the 20 buttons on the top of my clock and radio. I long ago lost the owner's manual for it, and the labeling on those buttons offers no help in correcting whatever I did that scrambled the clock display. The owner's manual wasn't much help in the beginning, either, when I still had it. Simply setting the time on that clock and radio is a long, drawn-out process, involving a complicated session of button-pushing and cryptic menus that are not displayed on the device.

So, having scrambled the time with my clumsy fingers and being unable to figure out what process would let me undo what I had done in the dark while sleepy, I unplugged the device completely and put it in the box I use for recycling electronic devices.

I have another radio, a very simple one, which I put on the bedside table. I also have an old electric analog alarm clock that has been stored in a closet, but that is now back on the table beside my pillow. You set it by turning a knob on the back of the clock, until the hands show the correct time. I never used its alarm, since my smart phone is a far better alarm clock and more flexible.

If I did not have a simple electric analog clock, I see that Amazon sells them. If I did not have a simple radio, they are also available there for very low prices. I do not need a clock radio with 20 buttons on top, identified with cryptic labels. I do not need my clock to show me the date, nor do I need the 24-hour military time feature. I don't need to be able to set multiple alarms, either. I also don't need my bedside clock radio to tell me the temperature or provide a faulty weather statement. I do not care what the phase of the moon is, nor do I need anything to tell me it is the middle of the night. Nope. I just need to look at a clock in the middle of the night to see what time it is. If I am unable to get back to sleep, I sometimes turn on the radio, which is permanently tuned to the local public radio news station. In the middle of the night, the BBC programming it carries soon bores me back to sleep.

The clock and radio that is now in my recycling box was a gift from my wife. I dutifully put it on the table next to the bed because she had been thoughtful enough to give it to me. As far as she knows, it is broken now. Since it was a gift, I went through the setup process when I got it. However, changing back and forth to and from daylight savings time is too much bother, so I just remembered to add or subtract an hour from the displayed time. Changing the station on the radio, too, is a major hassle, since there are only buttons to do that, rather than a knob you can turn to select another station. So, it is permanently on one radio station.

Now that I have my old analog alarm clock and a simple AM/FM radio on that table, I believe I'll just stick to those and forego any unneeded technology to show me the time and let me listen to the BBC when I'm lying awake at 2 AM. I love technology, but not when it is both not needed and poorly designed for people to use.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 12:41 PM

1. One of my pet peeves for years has been bad design.

Technology, supposedly, is supposed to make life simpler, not force us to play along with what the tech nerds -- probably a lot of kids who grew up with computer games -- decided we needed. Your clock is a perfect example.

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Response to grumpyduck (Reply #1)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 12:59 PM

5. Very true. Now, I don't mind things with menus

that are needed to set them up, but a clock and a radio? Unnecessary.

When we moved to our new home, we bought a couple of new smart TVs. To make them work, one has to go through a process with on-screen menus and use the remotes to make the settings. The TV has to connect to your WiFi network and your cable TV box, which is yet another item that requires a lengthy session with on-screen menus an its remote. But, they are necessarily complicated, since they do so many things. Once set up, they have voice controls, which is handy, once you get the hang of talking to your TV and cable box.

I don't have any problem with such systems. I understand the concepts underlying the set up process. But a clock and a radio? No. None of that stuff is needed for those. The clock needs a couple of buttons, one to set the hour and the other to set the minutes for either the clock display or an alarm. Another couple of buttons could turn the alarm off and on or let you set the time, using the buttons already there for doing that. It does not need a "Mode" button that you must hold down for 3 seconds before setting something in a long series of actions, and that you then press again when you are done. A radio needs some way to change from AM to FM, a way to tune up and down the band, and a volume control and on and off switch. My old radio has a knob for on/off and volume and another one to tune in the desired station. One switch to go from AM to FM. That's it. All analog. My trusty old Wesclox alarm clock has a lever to turn the alarm off and on, and two small knobs that let you set the time and the alarm time. All analog. Works fine, and is still working, 50 years after it was manufactured. Hmm...

Simplicity is a good thing, whenever it is possible to use to control devices.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 12:47 PM

2. I always say, nothing is as simple as an ought to be

Iíve just learned to accept the fact that everything is gonna be an ordeal. Sometimes I get really angry at the designers and imagine that they have to be sentenced to a year of using their own products. I think too many products are designed for appearance and advertising appeal instead of function. They love to take a good design and change it up and make it more complicated as well. I have noticed one thing, in a car the gas pedal and the brake pedal has been in the same place my whole life. They know if they ever change that a lot of people would get killed. Also the typewriter keyboard hasnít changed since it was designed to keep mechanical keys from sticking together.I wish the product designers would treat our other habits that way.

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Response to Walleye (Reply #2)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 01:15 PM

7. Cars. Well, now they've moved the transmission selector to the

center console and made it a knob you turn. In manual mode, you now use paddles to shift up and down on some cars.

Hmph! These days, when you rent a car, you'll need to sit there for some time to figure out where things are and how they work. Wipers? Do you turn a knob or move the stalk up or down, and where's the rear wiper control? Cruise control? Better look for that, too. It might be on the steering wheel or on one of those stalks, Who knows? And where are the radio controls? Oh, that's on the touch screen in the center stack. With any luck, you'll be able to remember all that stuff by the time you turn the car in. One thing's certain: You won't like the entertainment choices the previous renter selected. I guarantee that.

Oh, yeah, you'll need to pair your phone to the car, too, using Bluetooth or a USB cable tether. Which is it? Until you do that, you can't use the mapping and direction features. So, just take a deep breath and sit there in the car until you figure it out. You'll be on the road within fifteen minutes or so.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #7)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 01:18 PM

9. So true. I haven't rented a car in about five or six years and even then it was a nightmare

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #7)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 01:36 PM

13. This. We are several car generations behind on the learning curve.

When I rarely borrow one of our kids' cars, and they keep changing!, they know not to instruct me on more than 3 things I must know.

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Response to Walleye (Reply #2)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 01:15 PM

8. "Sometimes I get really angry at the designers..."

"...and imagine that they have to be sentenced to a year of using their own products."

I have said that exact same thing many many times. And I've been in design my whole career.

My 1971 VW Super Beetle back in college? Change the oil? Piece of cake. Change the oil filter? Ditto. One time I broke the fan belt just as I pulled out of a rest area on the freeway. Pulled over, grabbed my spare, and was on my way inside five minutes. Nowadays? Ha!

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 12:51 PM

3. I have a retired cell phone that I'm using as an alarm clock.

It's not connected to my wifi, but the time still updates when it needs to and it gets amber alerts.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 12:57 PM

4. I hear you MM

Years ago, my husband replaced the stereo unit in one of the mini vans we had when the kids were young with an after market one that was supposed to sound great and have a zillion features.

First of all, the clock display was so tiny up in the corner of the screen, you had to take your eyes off the road, lean over, and squint to see the time.

To change the time, first you had to select the correct function Ö. of course. I never remembered what that button was. Ö. was it button A, B, C, or D? then push the left button until you got the hour or the minutes flashing on the display. Ö.hold down while while turning the right knob to change the numbers. Took two hands. Impossible do while driving, if you could even see the numbers. And of course make sure you got the am and pm right. And since I only changed the time twice a year, Iíd forget how I did it the last time, and had to dig the instruction manual out of the glove compartment and search through it to find out how to change the damn clock. I hated that stereo unit. It made a project out of everything.

In my old Corolla, the clock is separate from the radio/stereo. The numbers are nice and big. And you press one button to advance the Hours and another button to advance the Minutes. Thatís it. SO MUCH EASIER.

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Response to Diamond_Dog (Reply #4)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 01:02 PM

6. I really don't mind complicated set-up routines if they are needed.

If they are not needed, however, they simply cause problems for people. Designers, though, seem to believe that the more complex things are, the more valuable they are. They are incorrect in that.

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Response to Diamond_Dog (Reply #4)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 01:43 PM

14. I want devices and appliances withOUT clocks. How many

clocks does anyone need in one room or within one arm's reach? Especially when retired. I got rid of the wall clocks in our house when I retired, wrong mood, but digitals are still all over the place, and they all blink, beep, or look irritatingly broken when the power goes out.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 01:19 PM

10. Lol. Our daughter likes us to have nice things she enjoys, so

she sent us a hand soap dispenser like hers for the powder room. It was nice, until it started shooting foam every time we opened the door. Not to worry, just took my husband a call to tech support and then following instructions on how to reboot the hand soap.

I've since gently suggested that one that interfaced directly with the company to troubleshoot without involving us would be a nice upgrade.

(Btw, I suspect someone in your household knows user manuals are on line now...)

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 01:21 PM

11. We installed a heated towell rack when we added to our house a few years ago.

Setting that damn thing takes a frickin' PHD! You set it via the switch in the wall, so you have to be on your knees to do it. On tile floor. I cringe whenever we lose power now as I know I'll have to reset the damn heated towel rack! But it does prevent your towels from smelling like mildew!

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Response to beaglelover (Reply #11)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 01:32 PM

12. Classic. Obviously you now should have a heated floor to go with it.

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Response to Hortensis (Reply #12)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 01:45 PM

15. Oh, we do, even though we live in So Cal, the mornings in the winter can get downright chilly!

ETA, the heated floors are MUCH easier to program!

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 03:05 PM

16. I hear ya here........I swear it took my husband 2 hours to change the time BACK last year.....

So this year I bought a clock radio that fixes itís time by itself. LOVE IT. When the power goes out it and comes back on, this clock radio resets itself!!!! Itís perfect. So this year on Saturday night come Sunday morning when we wake up, presto, time on the clock will be the correct time, no fuss no muss.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Fri Nov 5, 2021, 03:10 PM

17. dear mm and et al.

next to my computer station i have a old clock radio. for dst and pdt i just flip a lever and it is done .
another one in my bed room i run the hours through and same thing w the minutes .

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