OT: Objectified



#16

PBS (US) recently broadcast the documentary film below:

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/objectified/film.html

I found that some of the statements could easily be echoed here, e.g. "wear-in not wear-out". I also found it interesting that consumer electronics are on a 11 month refresh cycle. There is a much talk of consumerism.

Perfect timing for the holiday shopping season.


#17

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I also found it interesting that consumer electronics are on a 11 month refresh cycle.
Who's buying all that stuff in place of me? I mean, someone has to buy everything every few month!

#18

Hello!

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Who's buying all that stuff in place of me? I mean, someone has to buy everything every few month!

I don't buy it either, so for the two of us alone, somebody has replace _all_ his electronic stuff every four month! But I rather think, someone does not know how to properly operate the statistics functions of his calculator...

Greetings, Max


#19

IIRC, it's a design refresh cycle.

However, I do know many including myself that refresh their phones, laptops, and pocket digital cameras every 12 months. I recycle all my old tech through eBay if I cannot get friends or family to take it.


#20

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However, I do know many including myself that refresh their phones, laptops, and pocket digital cameras every 12 months.

LOL!
My cell phone is 4 years old, my laptop is 7, my desktop is 9 and my TV is 12 years old. I fell so.... un-fresh. :-)
P. S. And don't even ask how old my HP calculator is!I


#21

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LOL! My cell phone is 4 years old, my laptop is 7, my desktop is 9 and my TV is 12 years old. I fell so.... un-fresh. :-) P. S. And don't even ask how old my HP calculator is!

My TV is 21 years old; two cars 20 and 23 years old; a wristwatch 28 years old -- all everyday equipment better in certain ways that modern products. Wouldn't replace with new ones unless I were forced to...

-- KS

Edited: 24 Dec 2009, 10:18 p.m.

#22

That's very interesting.

I like the last film, where the one guy talks about what is essentially the moral imperative of good design. Then the later guy points out (via GPS tom-tom or whathaveyou) that bad design is ubiquitous, yet we don't make a big fight about it.

But I am a cynic about product design. Too much of it is about looks or change for change's sake, rather than for design. My new Toyota has bad reflections in the windshield, the seats are too high, I bang my head on the A-pillar even though the car is larger than the old Corolla in my driveway, the cupholders are sitting on a huge empty box that simply takes up space, the little doors on the storage bins get jammed easily and won't open, and on and on. I like my Toyota, the engineering is good, but the design sucks, if you know what I mean. It is too American for my tastes, ironically enough.

Bad design:
Like why are VCR/DVD players unusable without an easily lost or misplaced remote control? Why can't you page the damn thing like a portable phone? Why can't *all* the functions be accessed from the front panel for when the remote is lost? I asked these questions over a decade ago--nothing changes for the better.

Like portable phones. 5.8 Ghz or some nonsense like that is somehow "progress" when in fact it makes them almost unusable. They are static all the time, and you cannot "peak" the signal by walking just a half step, as you could when the frequency was 49 MHz.

DTV broadcast, when 90% of television is distributed by cable, why waste untold millions switching the last of the broadcast world to a whole new technology that is finicky and impossible to use with weak signals? Utterly stupid.

Cell phones. Don't get me started. How many %#$#^ing flip phones have you broken because of that stupid 28S hinge?

Texting. There's a moron's fantasy for you. Let's pay more, to get less baud rate, and waste our time looking like OCD button-pushers all damn day. Talk about useless user interface design! You can send Morse code on a Bug faster than texting--heck, you don't even need a paddle key to beat the stupid cell phone text!

Design has no hope of changing the world. Never has, never will. We design good stuff, and the bad stuff wins out. Thank you, Bill Gates.

And Apple Mac is the solution? Oh, it's so clean, so fresh, so cool, so modern, but it can't do a damn thing. Nothing useful will run on it. Brilliant!

Linux, Ha! Great for servers but again, what good is it for real work?

In computing especially, design is a total hodgepodge Shamopedia 10,000 monkeys writing Shakespeare kind of fractured absurdity.

I like my 18th century furniture. Still works after a quarter of a millennium. Sort of like the Skin Horse. He may be shabby, but at least he ain't in the trash bin wit hall the mechanical toys.

Edited: 6 Dec 2009, 9:35 p.m. after one or more responses were posted


#23

Excellent rant, Bill. Well, there are many examples of good design still out there, but they are hard to find amongst the sea of bad design.

I'll bet, though, that you will get several posters who will argue that "good" design has to be realistically re-defined for the realities of the present. Including the short design cycle, and meeting the demands of marketing.

So this discussion might not be so Off Topic after all, given the many laments expressed here over HP's downhill slide from good design principles.

#24

I agree with some of the points of Bill's rant, and I have no opinion on some others, but there are a few that I have a different take on...

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Why are VCR/DVD players unusable without an easily lost or misplaced remote control?

The first VCRs I used, in the early '80s, were completely usable without the remote, but I hated the fact that many functions were *only* available on the front panel. I thought it was a big improvement when VCRs started using on-screen menus, so you could do everything while comfortably seated on the couch, instead of having to squat on the floor in front of all that equipment. Also, I've never, ever lost or misplaced a remote... where would they go? They're either in my hand or on the coffee table. I did used to worry about battery life, but I find that all the remotes I've had over the last 15 years or so will run 3 years or more on one set, so that's not a big concern, either. Bottom line: I, for one, am actually happy with the way modern TVs, VCRs, and DVD players work.

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Texting. There's a moron's fantasy for you. Let's pay more, to get less baud rate, and waste our time looking like OCD button-pushers all damn day.

If you just want to send someone a brief message, without interrupting whatever they're doing, texting is perfect, and I'm pretty sure most people can type two or three lines of text using T9 text entry *much* faster than they'd ever be able to using a morse key. One could argue that texting is obsolete because you can use full-blown email on iPhones and the like, but still, I've used text messaging, and I thought it was useful, and pretty well designed, too, not to mention cheap.

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And Apple Mac is the solution? Oh, it's so clean, so fresh, so cool, so modern, but it can't do a damn thing. Nothing useful will run on it. Brilliant!

Linux, Ha! Great for servers but again, what good is it for real work?


I use Macs and Linux boxes at work, and when I need to use something that will run only on Windows, I use VMware or Parallels -- and that isn't often. Not that I have anything against Windows, mind you; I do use it at home, and if I feel I need it at work, I'll get an admin to install it on one of my machines there, but for the most part, I find that all of Windows, Mac, and Linux, are very good for getting work done. I also find that, with each passing year, it makes less and less of a difference which OS I use; they keep on borrowing good ideas from each other, and in the long run, they all improve.

- Thomas

Edited: 6 Dec 2009, 11:29 p.m.


#25

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I've never, ever lost or misplaced a remote... where would they go?

Do you have children at home? A wife? Why do think there are so many after-market remotes for sale?

#26

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I've never, ever lost or misplaced a remote... where would they go?

Do you have children at home? A wife? Why do think there are so many after-market remotes for sale?


No, and no, but I'm not a shut-in, and do have a lot of friends who are married and/or do have children, so I'm not completely unfamiliar with the chaos factor that is inherent in a multi-person household... and even said friends don't have this problem of disappearing remotes. The most common strategy appears to be to put the remotes on top of the TV when not in use, where the little tykes can't reach them.


To answer your third question: a lot of people get annoyed at the clutter and find themselves wishing they had just one remote that could control *all* of their audio/visual equipment, and then they get a fancy universal remote. Me, I've studied the offerings and found them wanting; if it weren't such an incredibly minor issue to begin with, I'd download some software and try using my HP-48G, but something tells me that that would get annoying, too. ;-)

#27

Hi Thomas,

Well at least we do agree completely on one thing: the 27s is a very cool machine. Almost 18th century ;-)

Best regards,

Bill


#28

Hi Bill,

I'm sure we agree on quite a few things, like the silliness of cell phone design, digital broadcast TV, or the tragedy of a great car manufacturer putting out a poorly designed product. (I'm pretty pleased with my 2007 Yaris BTW, but it sounded like you were complaining about a different model.)


I don't know why you'd think I'm a 27S fan, though -- I barely know the thing and if I ever sang its praises in public, it must have slipped my aging mind. Being a 42S fan takes up too much of my free time already. :-)

Best regards,

- Thomas

#29

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Don't get me started. How many %#$#^ing flip phones have you broken because of that stupid 28S hinge?

I've never had a flip-phone (or slide), because I could forsee problems - generally they cannot fold all the way back (I have not seen one that can) and thus someday they will be pushed to breaking point. BTW, I have a had a 28S for around 20 years with no problems on the hinge! I like the fact it folds closed and thanks to that it's probably about the only calculator I have, which I have used extensively, without a single scratch on the screen. But don't get me started on the battery compartment....


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Linux, Ha! Great for servers but again, what good is it for real work?

I have it on my home PC and it works fine. OpenOffice 3 does everything I do on MS Office at work.


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I like my Toyota, the engineering is good...

Yes, my first car was a 1966 Corona Mk 1. Best car I ever had.


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I like my 18th century furniture. Still works after a quarter of a millennium

Yes, good solid stuff. So throw away your all your modern gadgets and live in 18th century style - blissful ignorance of the world around you what with no TV, cell phone or computer informing you of the ills of the world :)))

#30

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Quote: Linux, Ha! Great for servers but again, what good is it for real work?

I have it on my home PC and it works fine. Open Office 3 does everything I do on MS Office at work.


Yes, but word processing and spreadsheets are commodity items. That isn't what matters. It is the real software, whether for graphic design, or industrial design, or engineering etc that matters.

Word processors stopped gaining meaningful improvements in the late 1980s--or maybe early 1990s. Spreadsheets don't improve in a good way either--they just get dorked up from bad coding (as happened a few years back to excel when it did completely faulty maths for certain particular combinations.)

I know generally what specialized software is written for the Mac (not much) and most everything else is written for Windows. While one of my specialized programs is being upgraded to Mac, none are written to run on a unix or linux platform. Too bad, too. I liked old unix best of all for platform stability.


#31

It depends on your definition of "real work" then. For me, sometimes real work can be done without a PC, e.g. design verification testing, equipment intergration etc. Tabulating results, writing reports, making quotes etc. may not be seen as real work, but all forms part of it. the work is not complete without it.

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and most everything else is written for Windows

The problem is that software vendors are reluctant to spend money developing on platforms with fewer users, and this lack of software in turn discourages users to move to other platforms. Instead software vendors just invent new features for the sake of new features.


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Word processors stopped gaining meaningful improvements in the late 1980s

True, there's not much I can do on Word-2003 that I couldn't do on WP 5.1. Perhaps just that windows interface makes it a bit easier - although sometimes not.
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(as happened a few years back to excel when it did completely faulty maths for certain particular combinations.)

Has happened to calculators too. I always attempt to check answers via an independent means (e.g. is it in the order of what I expect and check with a few widespread datapoints. For real critical stuff, actually thoroughly check the results). I do find VBA quite handy in Excel though.



edit: for clarity: WP5.1 = WordPerfect 5.1, a word processor from the early nineties where everything just "works as it should" - like old HP calcs.


Edited: 8 Dec 2009, 4:42 a.m. after one or more responses were posted


#32

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True, there's not much I can do on Word-2003 that I couldn't do on WP 5.1. Perhaps just that windows interface makes it a bit easier - although sometimes not.

I STILL use WP 5.1 (in a "command prompt" window; used to be a DOS window!) if I want to do simple things quickly with a word processor: column handling, in particular - with my PC AT keyboard, which has the function keys on the left (where they belong for WP 5.1!). Find and replace for formatting codes is also FAR superior in old WP 5.1.


#33

I would LOVE to have a copy of the old WP 5.1!


#34

How weird: my command prompt window shows Microsoft Windows XP [Version 5.1]!

#35

Agreed. Most people seem to live to buy any shiny thing their friends have with no regard to any real value. I do have to mention though that Intel Macs are pretty adaptable. I run WinXP Pro on Bootcamp currently. I've run AutoCAD, ArcGIS ArcView, and MathCAD, as well as applications for older devices using serial connections which work just fine through an serial/usb adapter. It's not a bad way to learn some basic UNIX either. It's also my entertainment center, and the whole thing fits in a carrier should I need it somewhere other than my desk where it takes up very little room. Did I mention that it was nice to look at too? :)

#36

Bill;
I almost always agree with your posts. No exception here.
IMHO, technology is not improving as a whole. I think that everything is getting over-computerized. Now, with the crutch of handhelds that have the power of PCs; anyone can get a job doing math. I believe nearly all the art has left the sciences. We are far enough into this downward spiral that the middle managers don't even know the difference between thought and just pressing enter. Surveying used to take a three man field crew and one man in the office to do good work. It now takes one or two men in the field with two or three in the office to generate regular mistakes. And no one even notices that we have slid backwards.
Glad i made my stack when the making was good.
Anyway; keep posting. You 'splain it better than i do. - d

#37

Hi, Bill --

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But I am a cynic about product design. Too much of it is about looks or change for change's sake, rather than for design.

You're absolutely right about that...

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My new Toyota has bad reflections in the windshield,

The reason for this is likely the rakish slope of the windshield that improves aerodynamics for fuel efficiency, and also helps prevent damage from rocks. Cars of the 1980's and prior had very upright windshields.

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Bad design: Like why are VCR/DVD players unusable without an easily lost or misplaced remote control?

My complaint is with modern remote controls themselves -- wobbly buttons of every shape, size, and orientation, often failing to respond because they weren't pressed on-center.

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DTV broadcast, when 90% of television is distributed by cable, why waste untold millions switching the last of the broadcast world to a whole new technology that is finicky and impossible to use with weak signals? Utterly stupid.

Here's a more fundamental problem -- The US' transitioning of broadcast channels to digital, when US manufacturers don't even make their own digital television sets -- forcing purchase of more imported goods. Sure, we essentially quit making analog sets years ago, too, but at least there's still a basis of tried-and-true design and know-how.


Edited: 12 Dec 2009, 2:33 a.m.


#38

Hi Karl,

Quote:
"My new Toyota has bad reflections in the windshield, "

The reason for this is likely the rakish slope of the windshield that improves aerodynamics for fuel efficiency, and also helps prevent damage from rocks. Cars of the 1980's and prior had very upright windshields.


I like the Porsche 911 windshield (not the 996), and the original Saab 900. Both are very streamlined and yet the windshields are reasonable.

The glare is exacerbated because of this nonsense fancy interior designer "feature"--a stupid cut-out to tuck the clock into!

"Designers" (actually product marketers) feel the need to reinvent the wheel and call it progress. I'd rather invent something new.

Edited: 12 Dec 2009, 8:58 a.m.


#39

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Quote:
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My new Toyota has bad reflections in the windshield

The reason for this is likely the rakish slope of the windshield that improves aerodynamics for fuel efficiency, and also helps prevent damage from rocks. Cars of the 1980's and prior had very upright windshields.


I like the Porsche 911 windshield (not the 996), and the original Saab 900. Both are very streamlined and yet the windshields are reasonable.

The glare is exacerbated because of this nonsense fancy interior designer "feature"--a stupid cut-out to tuck the clock into!


Judging by that photograph, I'd say that the main problem with Bill's new Toyota seems to be the light-colored plastic that the dash is made of.


I've owned cars with pretty straight (vertical) windshields, like the first generation VW Golf, and with rather flat (horizontal) windshields, like the Toyota Yaris, and several models somewhere in between. I never had a problem with reflections in the windshield in any of them, other than when I left maps or other pieces of paper on top of the dash... But every single car that I've ever owned has had dashboards made of *black* plastic.


Edited: 14 Dec 2009, 3:00 a.m.

#40

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Like why are VCR/DVD players unusable without an easily lost or misplaced remote control?
Our first one had a cord. You could always find it.
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My new Toyota has bad reflections in the windshield
Someone else mentioned aerodynamics to improve mileage; but the problem with the flatter modern windshields is that they increase your need for air conditioning, which takes gas. I had a couple of deceptively large diesel Peugeot 504's however, a '75 sedan that got 30 & 37 mpg and an '81 station wagon that got 28 & 35mph with nearly 200,000 miles and never even a tune-up. When we moved, even the queen-size sofa-sleeper went all the way in, not hanging over the rear bumper. Can you get anything like that anymore? BTW, the well designed sunroof meant we seldom needed the air conditioning.
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DTV broadcast, when 90% of television is distributed by cable, why waste untold millions switching the last of the broadcast world to a whole new technology that is finicky and impossible to use with weak signals?
So we would get fed up with the poorer picture quality and the long time required to change channels, and quit watching TV.
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You can send Morse code on a Bug faster than texting
That was demonstrated on the Jay Leno show. Morse won, and the guys operating it weren't super fast either. I'd like phones to be made big enough to use though (and with a decent earphone speaker!), and then a QWERTY keyboard would be a little more practical.
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Linux, Ha! Great for servers but again, what good is it for real work?
I use it all the time, except for a couple of things I still do in DOS. 90% of my computer problems vanished when I dumped Windows. I won't use Windows again. It's not worth my health. I was always angry with the computer when I had Windows.

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