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The tyranny of digital gizmos

Comforts of Home Yield to Tyranny of Digital Gizmos

_New York Times_, April 28, 2002


Last Christmas Eve, just as Lynne Bowman was preheating her oven to roast a turkey for 15 guests, her daughter accidentally brushed against one of the new oven's many digital controls.

"We heard this `beep beep beep,' " recalled Ms. Bowman, a 56-year-old freelance creative director who lives in Pescadero, Calif., "and no more oven.  After that, we couldn't get it to work."

Ms. Bowman's husband, an engineer, was unable to fix the problem.  Nor were any of the assembled guests, half of whom were also engineers.

Desperate, Ms. Bowman resorted to the small, simple 1970's-vintage Tappan electric oven in the guest house, which worked like a charm.

Of all the forces that permeate daily life, perhaps nothing has become more of a tyranny than the bits and pieces of technology that are meant to help one get through the day more easily, but instead are a source of frustration.

Relatively simple devices that were once controlled by twisting a knob or pushing a button are now endowed with digital commands that can take hours to master.

[rest snipped]
Alex Chernavsky Send private email
Thursday, January 26, 2006
"After that, we couldn't get it to work."

Oh yes, that is the microwave's dreadful lockout mode which is activated be a secret series of keypresses that is only disclosed in the manual you threw away.

I almost had to buy a new microwave over that one. Eventually, I unplugged it for 24 hours, including grounding out the plug prongs, in order to force a reset.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Yes, I hate this too. I have a microvawe from a one of the biggest european companies (I live in Europe). And for the reason I can't understand they completly removed knobs and exchanged them with buttons. Now I have to set power then the time and press start. That's several pushes - sometimes over 10! With a knobs I would have to just set the power in case I need different and then set the time which would also turn it on. It's not a technical problem to make electronic knob, but it seems that it is the mind problem of the designers.

You will ask why I chose this oven. Thats the only one model that fits a space I have for this device. Unfortunately.

It's at least as easy that I almost needed no reading a manual. At the previous work we had an oven which we was not able to operate at all without reading a manual. Noone could find a way to change a power. That was of course software company. So how a "normal" person could do that? I don't know.
Greg Oleksy Send private email
Friday, January 27, 2006
mmm, a microwave oven with an iPod interface! Use the dial to set the time and press the center to start - perfect! Would of course have to be white!
Dave Barker Send private email
Friday, January 27, 2006

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