Why office machines and gadgets hate me (and why I hate them back)

I consider myself a luddite when it comes to most forms of technology, particularly with those devices that are said to “just work.” This includes photocopiers, fax machines, complex phones (e.g. multi-line phone systems, cell phones), printers, home theater systems, and other unholy bastard combinations of these devices. Somehow, they don’t “just work” for me.

Microsoft is very rare at “getting it right,” but on some things they have: one of the goals of Microsoft’s Office 2007 was to help its users more easily and quickly create good looking documents. Doing it quickly makes the user feel smart; having it look good makes the user look smart too.

When I’m fumbling around with inane office equipment and devices, trying to figure out what some flashing LED with meaningless icon is trying to convey, or trying to figure out what combinations of buttons must be pushed in what order to make some device perform some magic function, I don’t feel very smart. When I cannot get these devices to work the way I want them to, it makes me feel stupid and don’t want to use the device again, and become bitter about it (as if I wasn’t bitter enough already).

This is probably the basis for the luddite attitude of many people, for both gadgets and technology as well as computers.

I don’t think this is our fault…

Besides many manufacturers’ complete ineptitude in usability and market testing, many, many manufacturers cut corners and have electrical and hardware engineers write software and design interfaces, instead of hiring dedicated software engineers and usability experts. Just because an electrical/hardware engineer knows how to program, it does not mean they can produce good software, or even know what they are doing.


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