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Jewish World Review Dec. 30, 2003 / 5 Teves, 5764

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

Resolutions sure to
push your buttons | At last! New Year's resolutions for the people who need 'em most - THE ELECTRONIC-DEVICE DESIGNER'S SOLEMN PLEDGE: From this point forth, I, a dyed-in-the-silicon techie who intuitively understands all gadgets, will accept the fact that what seems "obvious" to me is "*#&%*# impossible!" to everyone else. I will therefore keep someone like my doddering great-aunt in mind whenever I design household objects, such as an electric toothbrush. (Even though great-auntie doesn't have any teeth. I know that's not the point.)

  • So, anyway: I hereby pledge that every function on every gadget will have its own button. For instance, an alarm clock will have one button for setting the alarm and a completely separate button for setting the time. Even if it seems painfully obvious to me that you just tap the button once for time and twice for alarm - four times if you want to reset it for p.m. during daylight-saving time - and that's that. But, no, I will give you all sorts of little buttons for your little minds. Promise.

  • When I affix an on-off switch, it will be clearly labeled "on-off" and not "standby."

  • Similarly, a play button shall state the word "play," and not be just a circle, an arrow, or an arrow in a circle.

  • Furthermore, these words - "play," "off" and "on" - shall be displayed in a color that contrasts with the object itself. On no account will they be written in raised black plastic on a black plastic surface.

  • And speaking of no-nos, when I design a remote control, it will not have three buttons along the top that say, "TV," "VCR" and "TV/VCR," because that, admittedly, is infuriating.

  • Nor will it have weird buttons that say things like "zero back" and "tamperproof" which, on a slow day in '97, we added just to confuse you.

  • When designing cordless phones, I will confer with my fellow designers to decide once and for all whether the phone will answer automatically when you pick it up or you first have to press "talk."

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    We will also universally agree that, from now on, "talk" shall not also mean "hang up."

  • And when we get around to designing a new generation of cell phones ... forget it. We'll never agree on cell phones. But I personally pledge never to make the on button red again, as I did for a while in '02 - even though that provided a lot of laughs.

  • As for other appliances: I will design no more microwaves with different levels of heating. I am keenly aware that everyone wants to nuke on high, just like everyone wants Tylenol that is Extra Strength.

  • I will make all radios with knobs.

  • I will add absolutely no new functions to the digital camera. In fact, I'll take a couple off, like pixel choice.

  • With everything I design, I will include the appropriate batteries.

But I can't promise to tell you where they go.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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