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Jewish World ReviewNov. 5, 2002 / 30 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

Time waits for no blender | Time flies when you're having fun. It refuses to budge when your husband bought a digital clock/radio/CD/tape/MP3 player that is stuck on daylight-saving time.

Oh, what an advanced machine! It has buttons for song repeat, automatic search, even "EQ." (Emotional Quibbles? Evil Quotient? Extreme Quickie?) But four days into Eastern standard time, and there is no way to convince the thing: IT'S GETTING DARK OUTSIDE! SUMMER'S OVER! GET WITH THE PROGRAM!

What does it take to make those digits move? Money? Flowers? Orders from Osama? Oh, L-rd, you who made the heavens and the Earth, how is it you also allowed some geek to create a clock without a single button that reads "Time Set"?

And how can I get my hands on him?

"It's just impossible!" growls my colleague Joe, regarding how to reset his kitchen "conveniences." (And why do they all have clocks in them, anyway? Do you really need to know what time it is when you froth your smoothie?) "I was trying to change the time on my microwave and it kept wanting to cook for 8:15 minutes."

"My clock radio works fine, but I can't set the time either," said Sandra Beckwith, a PR lady from upstate. "I tried to do it intuitively - didn't work. Followed the manual - didn't work. I even asked a man to figure it out."

That didn't work either, probably because the man was past adolescence.

Having one or more 14-year-old boys around the house is the only answer, insists Lori Ames, a Long Island mom. Not only are they more adept at technology, "they're not afraid that anything will break, because if it does, they don't care."

Me, I'm merry as any middle-schooler when it comes to pressing buttons (especially my husband's, as to why we couldn't just get a plain CD player - cheaper, easier - with a nice little clock NEXT to it that has HANDS that you set by WINDING them). But the problem with most buttons today is that you have to push them just so to make what you want to happen happen: Hold the top two down, then punch the bottom one twice, real fast, otherwise the number that comes up corresponds to the exact time elapsed since you last called your mom.

Wow! You'd better call her now!

"There's just too much functionality included in most products," explains Burkey Belser, president of the industrial design firm Greenfield/Belser.

For instance, he says, "I was just talking to a client who got a new phone system installed. It has 'save' features and 'quick' features, and he said, 'It's all I can do to make an outgoing call!'"

Belser himself bought a watch that drove him batty. "If I pushed a combo of two buttons, they were supposed to change me into stopwatch mode, and two others would change me into clock mode. And the result was that I could never remember which mode I was in and I was unable to get the alarm to stop ringing every five minutes, so I took it back and told them I wanted a watch with one button."

Hey, I want a life with one button. Press once for on. Press again for (I know this is a tough concept for you engineers out there) off. My radio/tape/CD/MP3/ R2D2/coffeemaker/laser printer/car alarm/fish feeder would stay on until I wanted it to stop. Period.

It would not tell me the time, but that's okay, because from now on I intend to consult my sundial.

Got it free with my digital pumpkin seed roaster.

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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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