“Keep It Simple, Stupid”

(My Droid cell phone is a powerhouse of technology, but one needs the key to unlock its potential, and I never know where that is.)

I remember the title of this post coming into the American vernacular, and I recall being annoyed at its suggestion. It says we need simplicity for easy functioning, but I must say: As I’ve gotten older, I understand that principle. The most damning aspect of things I bought over the years was that in the last analysis, they weren’t functional. Why? They were just too complicated. They needed an instruction booklet to accompany, and I never crack those.

For instance, years ago I bought one of those expensive, state-of-the-art microwaves that never merely cooked the meat. Instead, it asked “What are you cooking?” (and then offered choices). It next wanted to know, “How many pieces are you cooking?” (it self-regulated heat depending upon how many) You were supposed to pump in a figure of 1-4. It then asked “How do you want the meat done?” “Medium?” “Well-done?“

In other words, I had to have a conversation with it before it cooked the item. Clearly, all this exchange became annoying, and I stopped using it for any but the most basic needs. If anything required my accessing a user’s manual, that never happened. I seldom do that for any product I buy.

But we’ve seen a steady rise in what products can do over the years. Remember, years ago, when a major appliance company came out with its stove, touting it as “the burner with a brain.” Well, my microwave had more than a brain; it was fluent in several languages (English, Spanish, and Japanese, the language of its homeland). All it needed was someone to converse with.

What did I ultimately use it for? Defrosting items I forgot to leave out and popcorn (the icons depicting visuals these were visible on the command screen). Yep, that’s right. My expensive, state-of-the-art, stainless steel, ebony-trimmed microwave was only ever employed for those two functions because I never put into play anything more sophisticated.

It’s been that way all my life. If I had to read a booklet to get to understand a tool’s capability, I never did, and so it never got to impress me with what it could do. But, in speaking with others who have their own items in various modes of disuse, I know I’m not alone in this.

My older daughter has a shower set-up that requires the interaction of 5 separate faucets in various degrees of turns to get at the necessary flow and temperature. Oh, again, it’s the height of utilitarian wonder but you need a PhD to operate it. When I ask: “What’s wrong with one main faucet coming out of the wall, fed by a hot and cold water faucet above?” I get met with incredulous stares. They don’t know what I am talking about.

Why have that simplicity when one can have all this confusion?

Then there’s their brand new wall oven. If the electricity goes out (due to power failures,) the timer on the oven resorts to blinking interminably. Better yet–In “I’ll show you mode,“ it locks all other functioning of the oven until you get that item straightened out. Can you fix it easily? No, you must find the appliance booklet (probably buried in a drawer somewhere), turn to page 98, read the applicable part in English (Spanish is every other paragraph) and then approach the monster, prepared to do battle. An example: “By turning the left dial on the upper right hand panel 3/4ths. counterclockwise, while simultaneously holding the right dial at a 9:00 position, you can reset the apparatus.

By then, the family’s resorted to eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and you’ve a monstrous headache.

You’ll recall the tedious sequence when you find you have to resort to it again in another 6 months (following another power failure) and curse yourself you didn’t (1) Leave the booklet out with proper pages marked (so you don’t have to thumb through entire booklet again) or (2) Jot down bullet point instructions and leave on door of appliance.

And then there are those cars. When my battery died (I lost a few of these because I kept cars for so long), my radio ceased operating and I never recalled where I put the code. Oh, each time I promised myself I’d put it in a easily-attainable/memorable spot, but each time I forgot where.

And don’t even get me started on my cell phone. I’ve only ever changed that 3 times in my life (the same number some young go through different models in a year.) Why? It’s too damned hard learning a whole new system–especially at 65. This past year, when my husband gave me a Droid, I stood, holding the little menace as it rang and rang, while I tried pushing innumerable buttons to access the voice on the other end. I never did get that call (and many after).

With this phone, you need download their “booklet” of instruction on their website; it doesn‘t automatically come with it.

Give me back the old days when instructions were simple and they came on one sheet attached to the product. All this sophistication is a serious drain. I never care about the many things these tools can do. All I ever really want them to do is the job they were built to deliver in the first place.

So, to manufacturers: “There’s a population out here who prefer our products simple: If it’s a phone, let it act like a phone…period.” We don’t need instantaneous connect to the Stock Market’s latest figures, directions as to where the nearest sushi bar is, a camera to take a picture of my favorite appetizer there, the latest weather report….on and on and on….

In other words, “Keep it simple, stupid.” (Because ironically, we’ve discovered: That’s the smarter way to go.)

Now, click on the following link and you’ll discover there’s a club for folks who buy and collect old/antique appliances. Here they can get those instruction booklets I never wanted to read (the internet never ceases to amaze me!):

http://www.antiquestoves.com/toac/stoveguides.htm#The CHAMBERS Idle Hour Guide

And here’s even more interesting information as to how the term came about from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KISS_principle

Now, got your own pet peeves regarding the products we use? There must be products that bug you as much as the ones that get me screaming. Let’s share the misery! Comment section is below and I promise–It’s easy. Just sign in and put e-mail address (for authorization it’s “you”), then your comment.






About admin

A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog, kevinMD.com, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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