I was born before the demise of the On/Off switch. I miss it. It was such a straight forward, honest expression of your intent. Today, you occasionally see a Stop/Go button, but more often it’s something more complex.
In place of On/Off, you have words such as: Pulse, Slide, Pause, Start and Power or often just a color coded button or lever. My Cuisinart offers a Chop/Grind alternative, but other electrical devices cleverly disguise their operation with cute, meaningless symbols or a hidden switch on the cord.
The temperature indicators on my ceramic stove top require magnification to determine the burner settings. And my new refrigerator with the French doors takes three hands working quickly to insert a bowl of leftovers before one door bangs against the counter and the other swings shut.
Markings on Devices Often Unclear
Faucets seldom have clearly indicated Cold/Hot markings. Manufacturers reduced the lettering to C/H years ago and today’s fixtures may read Frio (cold) or Caliente (less cold). Before long we’ll need to learn Chinese symbols or risk being scalded by trial and error.
Now, I don’t mean to be picky. But who designs our appliances today? Are manufacturers cutting costs by using high school shop students? Are they outsourcing American design to those who’ve never set foot in an American kitchen or laundry room?
Television remotes are no better. They are designed for nimble-fingered, code-capable four-year olds, not the rest of us. I am convinced that remotes, cell phones, and DVDs connect with some portion of the brain that just evolved in the last twenty years. Those over sixty are working with yesterday’s DNA, while younger people have the new, improved stuff that, undoubtedly, comes from consuming chemically-laced sodas and hormone-enhanced beef.
Dashboards are Dashin, but not Intuitive
Car dashboards are no longer intuitive or even legible. The light and wiper controls situated on the steering column are easily accessible, but my dashboard has more push buttons than the space shuttle command center. That’s fine when I have a young co-pilot in the passenger seat, but dangerous when trying to determine which of the adorable little icons will defrost the windshield while I’m all alone and whizzing down the Interstate.
Despite these annoyances, I’m determined not to despair. I’m looking forward to more speech-powered technology that will allow us to interact with our everyday devices. Imagine giving orders to various household appliances as though you were Jane Jetson with robotic, live-in help. Your monologue might go like this:
Kitchen Monologue of the Future
To the Can Opener: “You there, open that can of soup and, and while you’re at it, eat the lid.”
To the Cuisinart: “Chop these onions and, for heaven’s sake, try to do it without making all that noise.”
To the Coffeemaker: “Make that a grande, decaf, cappuccino with a splash of hazelnut and catapult the grounds into the disposal.”
To the Microwave: “Don’t ask me how much time. You’ve got a computer; figure it out yourself.”
To the Blender: “Suck up all the leftovers from the countertop and make me a delicious, nutritious smoothie.”
To the Oven: “Clean yourself and take a nap. I’m going out for dinner.”
To the Garbage Disposal: “Don’t forget to chew before you swallow.”
To the Refrig: “Take an inventory and realign your contents by expiration date. You have 90 seconds. Go! ”
To the Toaster: “One more burnt bagel and you’re toast!”
To the Washer/Dryer: “I’ve given you the best years of my life and what do I have to show for it: drawers full of faded jeans, loose buttons, unmatched socks and shrunken tee shirts.”
To the Curling Iron: “Gimme a Shirley Temple on the locks.”
To the Electric Toothbrush: “Look at this dental bill? What do you have to say for yourself?”
To the Vacuum Cleaner: “Inhale only; no more exhaling or I’ll take a broom to you.”
To the Treadmill: “You may be a mover and a shaker, but you’ll never get anywhere with your attitude.”
To the Lawn Mower: “I’m embarrassed to follow you around, with all that green hanging out of your teeth.”
To the Trash Compactor: “Of course, you’re going to have repetitive task syndrome, you’re a one trick pony.”
To the Toilet Seat: “Attention! …Flush…At Ease.”
To the Shower Head: “I’ll take three minutes of tropical downpour, followed by five minutes of gentle rainforest and a warm blow dry.”
To the Security System: “Where are those damn front door keys? Oh, I forgot…. ‘Open Sesame.’”
To the Computer: “I’m going to bed, but I want that report researched, written, printed, and on my desk by 7 a.m. Good night.”
It might take a while to get comfortable speaking commands to inanimate objects in the hope they will instantly respond, but having raised four kids, I have the necessary training.