Control panels on space-age ovens




How did you get into my grandparents' kitchen?

I loved that oven.

Ovens, actually. Double-decker.


Pretty, but how's the knobfeel?


That one on the left actually calibrated a meat thermometer, so you could test your roast for doneness without even opening the oven. And yet we persist in believing ancient people were primitive.


It was all gonna be knobs.

I have a recording of "The 21st Century" from the 1960s predicting the home of the future.

Hey! It's on YouTube!

They actually showed the microwave oven.

This screen has your news....this screen also has your stocks...." All with knobs.
(Those are all TV sets with the brightness turned all the way down.)

The Funny is I have the three (actually 14+) screens and I work without ever going to the office.


The knobs have something... visceral... in the way they feel. Few pushbuttons can do that, and touchscreens cannot.

Touchscreens took away the haptic aspect of interaction with electronics. I will grudgingly admit the usefulness and flexibility of this kind of user interface, but an important part of the operator experience is just... gone. Now everything feels the same, like a glass slab.

Design with knobs or even toggle switches is difficult these days. Everything has to be controllable remotely over some sort of data bus (which is good), but then the user interface has to match the inner state of the machine (which is important), and there's just no way (cost effective) to match the knob and switch position to a remotely induced state change. (Built-in servos and solenoids are possible but then we trigger the cost-effective exception.) So in the better case it is buttons and rotary encoders, in the worse case just a glass slab. Oh well, welcome in the future. (And, when we're there, where is my flying car?)


My VW Jetta has two buttons and an LED dot bar to control the heater fan setting, while most other cars I have used had a multi position slider or rotating selector. Its fiddly to use and I have to look down to see the current setting, which I could otherwise do by touch. Its done that way because the computer sometimes need to jack up the fan speed to get the windscreen properly misted up. But in the process we lose the use of senses other than our vision, and compromise our awareness. Not good.


And knobs can be shaped to avoid confusion. This is true of aircraft controls where the landing gear control is shaped like a wheel and the flaps control is shaped like an airfoil, since they're both adjusted during landing when the pilot should not have to look down to see which he is operating.


The story behind this goes to this guy, who used shape coding to solve the problem of the tendency of the pilots to retract landing gear while still on the runway, because they pulled the gear lever instead of the flaps lever and belly-landed the bird on the tarmac. crash!

Lots of fun in the world of fail! smiley


Jalopnik had an article a few days back about what car controls should be standardised across all makes and models. To which the answer, IMO, is FUCKING ALL OF THEM. They confuse the hell out of me.


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