I’ve enjoyed Natalie Solent’s writing over at the Samizdatian lair for well over a decade, and this latest one of hers is no disappointment. The actual topic is some MEGO (my eyes glaze over) piece of political arcana called “Tactical Voting Websites” or some such rubbish, but it was her description of the ultimate microwave oven (seriously) which got me going — a microwave which she bought for her father, who didn’t want anything complicated or he wouldn’t use it. Here are its technical specs:
It had two dials, How Hot and How Long.
Compare that to her own modern one which does everything (badly) and has features which she has never used, and that probably puts her in the company of just about, well, everyone in the world.
I would buy one of her father’s microwave ovens in a heartbeat, as long as it had one teeny-weeny additional feature: the 30-second one-touch full-strength blaster — but I wouldn’t cry bitter tears if it didn’t.
You know what’s coming, don’t you? Compare and contrast:
On the left: useless shit that over-complicates your life and costs far too much, all while achieving pretty much the same result as the fine stuff on the right.
Don’t even get me started on cell phones. As far as I’m concerned, mobile phones could have stopped right here in terms of design:
…while adding all the later system features we’ve come to know and love [eyecross]. (Am I the only one who needs about twenty minutes to send an intelligible 3-line text on an iPhone or Android phone? Great Mercury’s blistered fingers: do they design modern phones’ “keyboards” using a three-year-old girl’s fingertips as the model size?)
I’m not a Luddite, by any means. I am an unabashed follower of Occam’s Razor, however, which in this context means that simple tasks can best be accomplished using non-complex tools — “best” being a combination of utility and cost.