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Thread: Bad design in household electronics

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Bad design in household electronics

    AIB a post on another message board:

    * Any electronics designed to be placed on a table -- i.e. not portable -- that you have to grab on to if you're actively using it. Clock radios with front and side-mounted switches are a classic example, and even then, if there's a tough sliding switch on the top, one still has to grab onto the radio to switch it. I've seen clock radios with front-mounted snooze buttons that are impossible to press unless you're holding on to the back of the radio; otherwise, the radio is just pushed away.

    * Blindingly bright blue LEDs. Yeah, blue LEDs look nice, but when they're so intense one can practically read by them ... what's the point?

    * The growing usage of confirmation prompts in EVERYTHING for actions that aren't potentially destructive or damaging. Pretty soon, a company will release a television where, when you change the channel, will prompt you with "Are you sure?"

    * My cell phone has a camera button on the side that activates with a very light touch. Practically every day, I'll hear several consecutive "chuur-chink" sounds coming from my pocket. There's no key lock function to prevent accidental photos. Deleting a photo from the phone takes four steps, including an "Are you sure?" prompt.

    * The same cell phone will have a battery strength reading that shows three bars (full). After about four days, the display drops to two bars. After 12 hours, the display drops to one bar, and the phone screams like a banshee, telling you "OMG BATTERY TIME IS TEH LOW PANIC NOW!", even if the volume is turned down completely, or the ringer is set to vibrate. About 30 minutes later, you can't make any calls.



    Anyone else got any similarly dumb home electronics?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    yeah. RJ has some energy-saving thing with the power company, on his thermostat. You can program the air/heat for high/medium/low price periods, program the pool pump, etc. So if you only want the pool pump to, say, come on at 8 a.m and turn off at 3 p.m., you still have to program in 4 hourly settings: morning, daytime, afternoon, and evening. Like, morning 8 a.m. on, daytime, 10, still on, 3 p.m. afternoon, off, 7 p.m. evening, yeah, still off. Stupid.

    And I got an outside light timer from Target I have to return. Instead of just turning a dial to "on" time and "off" time, it's "programmable". That means you spend 15 min reading tiny print and programming the dang thing. And it doesn't work. Of course.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    The Motorola Cell Phone Charger from Hell.

    Once there was the barrel connector. It had a positive and a negative contact. They were round. You couldn't not get it in the charging hole. You stuck it in and it charged the phone every time. It never failed to charge.

    Mr. Cell phone dies because I accidentally ran it through a washing machine. Ok, that's on me. I get that. So I had to get another phone. The kids PUSHING phones talk to me like I am 12. I am not 12 and I don't want a Hanna Montana Rhinestone Cell phone with a flashing antenna.

    I want a telephone. Remember that word? I don't want a lifestyle enhancer, a phone that makes a statement or a Bluetooth device. I want a telephone that allows me to make telephone calls.

    We settle on the cheapest phone they have because it is the one with the least crap. They still want to sign me up for FREE texting - it lasts for a month.

    I go to buy and then they tell me that because I signed up for the service at a franchise dealer - not a corporate store.

    There is no sign on either store telling who is what, but somehow they can tell.

    I go to the franchise store and get so much teenage dismissal for asking for a simple phone that I about left.

    Ms. Snippy pulls out a phone from the dust bin.

    The phone turns out to be two years old. Of course this information is never brought up.

    Never the less, this one has all the bling. I don't want the bling but it is the minimum phone I can get. My provider only allows certain phones on its network.

    I have to buy a new charger. $15.00 for plastic and wires.

    Now I have the 3 pin charger. You plug it in and move it around until it may decide to make contact and charge. Then you gently place the phone down and hope that you get it on the dresser and the contacts stayed in contact.

    I really dislike where cell phones are going. I want a cheap phone that has a phone book and makes calls. That is all I need. I want it to work every time and I want it to ring when I am getting a call. I don't want it to hook up to the internet (at 35 cents) every time I accidentally press the button right next to the send button.

    I just want a telephone - and one that charges without 10 minutes of messing around.

  4. #4
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Maybe not Bad, but How About Unnecessary Design?

    Sometimes less is more. Continuing with eG’s line of thought I tend to prefer products that perform a single function adequately as opposed to those confusing combination toaster/pooper-scooper/nail-clipper/DVD/single-flush/can-openers that everyone seems to want to sell.

    I had a relative pass away recently and inherited their car and it is largely wasted on me because this thing has every bell and whistle I could never want. It’s got programmable memory buttons that will recall/change the mirror and seat settings for multiple drivers, it has an LED compass on the rear view mirror, it has a ‘heads up display’ that flashes on the windshield showing the speed and turn signal status, it’s got front seat heaters, individual passenger environmental controls, auxiliary volume and temp controls on the steering wheel…..you get the idea. The only feature I make use of, though, is the price. For me, a car is a conveyance that takes me from point A to point B you put gas into and requires hopefully little maintenance. Options like air conditioning or reclining power seats are for comfort loving hedonists.

    Bringing things back to electronics, if you’d like a challenge try to buy a radio. I mean just a radio. I looked for one maybe a year ago and discovered they’re nearly impossible to find in stores! If you want a radio it’ll pretty much have to be attached/integrated into something else like a clock, DVD player, car, or potato peeler.

    I am starting a new club today for all the luke warm Luddites out there, called the “12:00 Flashers”. The criteria for club membership is that the clock on your VCR must habitually flash 12:00. Who else around here qualifies for membership?

    Convenience and/or comfort are desirable in moderation, but in my view our lives should not be built around it. I fear that electronics marketing may, however, closely reflect this increasing trend/focus in our society.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by el Guapo View post
    The Motorola Cell Phone Charger from Hell.
    ...
    I want a telephone. Remember that word? I don't want a lifestyle enhancer, a phone that makes a statement or a Bluetooth device. I want a telephone that allows me to make telephone calls....
    I just want a telephone - and one that charges without 10 minutes of messing around.
    Jitterbug? Seen the ads in my AARP magazine. Big buttons, just - a - phone.

  6. #6
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Bringing things back to electronics, if you’d like a challenge try to buy a radio. I mean just a radio. I looked for one maybe a year ago and discovered they’re nearly impossible to find in stores! If you want a radio it’ll pretty much have to be attached/integrated into something else like a clock, DVD player, car, or potato peeler.
    My wife got me one of these for Christmas: lee valley radio. Will be part of my "Coming Apocolypse" kit. We've already had the first sign, EG is back...

    I'm another one in the "don't give me too many options, just give me something that works" camp.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    impending switch to HDTV in the USA

    I'm of the "we'll just buy a converter" school of thought.

    My wife believes this is her opportunity to get the new large screen makes-the-coffee-in-the-morning and does-the-wash television.

    Thankfully, we're on one income right now. So I have a chance of winning this one.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  8. #8
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SGB View post
    I'm of the "we'll just buy a converter" school of thought.
    Same here. I might watch a total of 20 hours of television in a year and the thought of spending more money on switching to cable (or even spending $ on the converter) is unattractive. We'll probably spend the $ on a converter just so we can continue to get the news and find out if a tornado is inbound.

    Off-topic:
    On a semi-related note with this HD changeover I'm surprised the Powers That Be are pushing this through. What about all the poor people in this country? right now Survivor, Fear Factor, and Cops are the bread and circuses of our age. Make that opium unaffordable and we'll have a revolt on our hands!
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  9. #9
    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    I just bought a CD player about 2 months ago. I bought a name-brand, reasonably priced one. It can barely play regular CD's. It's supposed to be able to play the writable ones, but it only worked like 2 times. So I returned it, and bought an even more expensive one. This one does the same stuff. Everything is sh** nowadays.

    And why can't I find legal mp3s that don't require me to sign up for a damn club or require me to have a very specific mp3 player (are you listening, ITunes?) The only place I've found is Wal-Mart.com, which edits all the music. GRRRR
    Do you want to pet my monkey?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    MrTresmo and I are finding these problems as we figure out how to do a gift registry for the wedding. We don't need a hell of a lot since we have hand me down kitchen appliances that will probably outlive anything we'd get new. I can just ask my mom for something she's had for 40 years and chances are it will be just as good as the new stuff.

    Electronics are made to be broken and bought over and over, but the things that are most aggravating in terms of breaking waaaaay before I expect them to are home appliances, like vacuums, hair dryers, sewing machines, that kind of thing.

    I've had this $50 toaster oven I got when I started grad school (and was in my first apartment, completely on my own) in 2005. I lost the rack for it...they don't make new racks. I'm supposed to buy a new freaking toaster oven instead of just getting the g*ddamn rack by itself. It's so wasteful, both of my money and resources.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tresmo View post
    .

    I've had this $50 toaster oven I got when I started grad school (and was in my first apartment, completely on my own) in 2005. I lost the rack for it...they don't make new racks. I'm supposed to buy a new freaking toaster oven instead of just getting the g*ddamn rack by itself. It's so wasteful, both of my money and resources.
    YEP! Just try to find a replacement carafe for any 4 year old coffee maker out there. Mrs. P's works fine except there's no place to hold the coffee. Guess what she is getting for Christmas...
    "Whatever beer I'm drinking, is better than the one I'm not." DMLW
    "Budweiser sells a product they reflectively insist on calling beer." John Oliver

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Planit View post
    YEP! Just try to find a replacement carafe for any 4 year old coffee maker out there. Mrs. P's works fine except there's no place to hold the coffee. Guess what she is getting for Christmas...
    Thrift stores have a ton of these! And they are cheap -- $5 might be too much.

    HTH

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Remote controls with 100 buttons all of the same size. I think their primary function is to look cool.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    George Foreman grill

    ...which has a sloped, gravity assisted liquid-draining lower surface. Anything I cook needs a plate under the front. (And of course it tries to leak out of the side without the plate.)

    Why would they not make that portion flat, with a curb & gutter-style collection channel?

  15. #15
    The lack of programmability when it would be useful to have: our microwave at home beeps the loudest and most other-worldly beep you'll ever hear, all the while the LED message board is scrolling "your food is ready". Really? Ya think my food is ready, or is this just some pavlovian response I'm having? Arghhh!
    Je suis Charlie

  16. #16
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    We recently bought a toaster oven - the cheapest on the rack at Target. I have never seen a more confusing set of controls and I cannot tell you how many times a week I set the thing to either bake or toast, only to realize after 15 minutes that it isn't on because one of the FOUR dials is in the wrong position.

    Its a frickin' toaster oven for chrissakes - how many gal dern knobs does it need? I need a checklist just to brown some bread!

    Dan, your description of the design flaws of the venerable clock radio was spot-on and hilarious - I couldn't agree more...

    Maister:
    I am starting a new club today for all the luke warm Luddites out there, called the “12:00 Flashers”. The criteria for club membership is that the clock on your VCR must habitually flash 12:00. Who else around here qualifies for membership?
    Are you saying I can actually set the time on my VCR??!
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    I recently bought a new computer and it had the newest versions of the Microsoft products on it. Now these versions are somewhat different than earlier versions and are not quite compatible. Now you can make it compatible by saving a document as a word 97-03 document but you do have to remember to do that. I had to give a power point presentation last week for a class and put the pp on my flash drive to load on the professors computer. Turns out it didn't load as it wasn't compatible. A bit frustrating but I did get out of giving a presentation.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    There was a time in the 90s when I would go through Walkmans and Discmans (or portable cassette and CD players, if you will) like water. And some of them were quite complicated to use, typcially the ones with the radio function.

    My family has also gone through lots of toasters and coffee makers for some reason.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

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    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    I just brought up a circa 1994 9" TV/VCR Combo from the basement for the kitchen. The remote is remarkably simple and straight forward.

  20. #20
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983 View post
    I recently bought a new computer and it had the newest versions of the Microsoft products on it. Now these versions are somewhat different than earlier versions and are not quite compatible. Now you can make it compatible by saving a document as a word 97-03 document but you do have to remember to do that. I had to give a power point presentation last week for a class and put the pp on my flash drive to load on the professors computer. Turns out it didn't load as it wasn't compatible. A bit frustrating but I did get out of giving a presentation.
    If you package it for a CD then it automatically will play regardless if the computer it's being run on has PowerPoint or not. Yes the whole Office Vista thing is a major PITA.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  21. #21
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by kjelsadek View post
    If you package it for a CD then it automatically will play regardless if the computer it's being run on has PowerPoint or not. Yes the whole Office Vista thing is a major PITA.
    I know their are ways to make it work. Its just that you have to remember to take the extra step. Why, oh, why are they not compatible?

  22. #22
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TOFB View post
    The remote is remarkably simple and straight forward.
    Remarkably simple and straightforward are relative terms. In my mind perfection was already acheived back in 1950 (one simply does not get "Gibraltar-like stability" in tuning anymore)! Everything that's come out since is just too danged confusin'




    Maister - resident neo-Luddite

    Quote Originally posted by wahday
    Are you saying I can actually set the time on my VCR??!
    Your club membership application is in the mail. Okay, we need one more and then we'll have a quorum for our initial meeting to set up bylaws.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    Take a look at Maister's picture...DAD had the remote way back in 1950! There is a historical precedent.
    "Whatever beer I'm drinking, is better than the one I'm not." DMLW
    "Budweiser sells a product they reflectively insist on calling beer." John Oliver

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by KSharpe View post
    I just bought a CD player about 2 months ago. I bought a name-brand, reasonably priced one. It can barely play regular CD's. It's supposed to be able to play the writable ones, but it only worked like 2 times. So I returned it, and bought an even more expensive one. This one does the same stuff. Everything is sh** nowadays.

    And why can't I find legal mp3s that don't require me to sign up for a damn club or require me to have a very specific mp3 player (are you listening, ITunes?) The only place I've found is Wal-Mart.com, which edits all the music. GRRRR
    FIle-sharing? Although, I don't know about the legality. edonkey and bearshare seems to work

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    http://www.amazon.com/MP3-Music-Down...6PEDMA4JQ9S2G5

    Amazon offers a DRM (Digital Rights Management) free music catalog that can be played on any player. Yes, you have to have an amazon account to purchase the music, and imo is a good alternative to the greatest music device store ever invented because i say so and i own stock in that company music store.

    On that note, i got a beef with new video game devices. Yes, i know some of you older folks actually played stick ball rather than pong, but in all seriousness. If i am going to shell out 350 bucks for an Xbox 360 to just have a "red ring of death" happen to me in less than 3 months, i call that shouty craftsmanship. And as such, i have also had to flip my playstation 2 upside down to just make the darn thing read a disc until it doesn't read anything at all. And my playstation 1? It died a tragic death with a spark and smoke.

    But wait, my Super Nintendo that my parents bought me over 15 years ago, still works like new (my daughter was amazed with the princess racing in go-karts in Super Mario Kart). And my Nintendo? Still has a prominent place on our entertainment and still works after 20 years of abuse (still blow on that games to make them work) so that i may enjoy giving my brother-n-law a royal beat down with video bo jackson on the la raiders. Greatest video football player ever.
    Last edited by Raf; 10 Dec 2007 at 6:35 PM. Reason: spelling
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