09 March 2005

Bleep my VCR!

If there is one thing that serves as the quintessential icon of bad human interface design it is the VCR. I mean, in my time, I've programmed everything from micro-chips to supercomputers. I can handle computers. But I fat-fingered the wrong button on the remote control to my VCR and got it into a state from which it would not exit.

The "Cancel" button would not cancel it. The "Menu" button brought up inappropriate menus. After dinner, I found the manual and turned to "Trouble Shooting." To my surprise there were two entries that mentioned something like what was on my VCR's front panel display. Both entries said the same thing: "Read Chapter 3." The longest chapter in the manual. Like I don't have enough to read.

Thumbing through Chapter 3 for a half-hour, I found that there was a button on the remote I should push. Nothing happened. A little experimentation soon showed that nothing on the remote did anything at all. I changed the batteries. Ah, success! Finally.

There used to be only one group of people whose minds I longed to illuminate with a flamethrower: the designers of the Application Programming Interfaces to ArcGIS. To them let me add the people who designed the user interface to my VCR.

Oh, yeah. And the twits who did the user interface to my long-discarded sports watch.

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