Tuesday, October 29, 2002

RADIO DAZE: Anyhow, all this radio talk reminds me of this old Virgina Postrel commentary about her thermostat:

My new thermostat was designed by brilliant morons.

It helps to explain why we can see computers everywhere but in the productivity statistics: In too many cases, computing power still makes ordinary tasks more complicated than they need to be‹or used to be.

The old thermostat had a clear knob for setting the desired temperature. It simultaneously showed you how hot the room already was and how hot you wanted it to be. It had two simple switches, one for setting heat and one for setting fan or auto. Henry Dreyfuss and Carl Kronmiller's design of the round Honeywell wall thermostat is a touchstone of great industrial design: simple, elegant, considerate.

I'm thinking you could say something similiar about the new radio in my bathroom: it has this horrible digital readout for the radio where every possible station has to be recognized--in other words, every digit and every tenth you could add to that digit is on there, like 90.1, 90.2, 90.3, etc. And I have to press and hold this button down to get past these stations, which is time-consuming. The old radio had a dial, you could tune the stations in by hand and get just the right spot and get from one end of the FM band to the other extremely quickly. What possible advantage is there with the digital readout, other than knowing exactly where you are at all times? The cd player broke on the old stereo and I am stuck with progress, horrible progress. Hear my lamentations, oh Internet.

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