How Do You Work This Damn Gadget?

from the it-ain't-easy dept

I have a very nice digital camera that I got about a year ago that has all sorts of funky features – most of which I will never figure out. It came with something like four different instruction books, and I never was quite sure which one I was supposed to read for what. Eventually, I figured out how to (a) take pictures and (b) get pictures off the camera, and have been mostly happy with it since then. However, the thousands of fancy features I’m sure the camera has will likely continue to go unused. It seems I’m not the only person to be befuddled by the latest in gadget complexity. Many more gadgets are coming with more features – but that feature creep is leading to increasingly more complex user interfaces that are becoming much more of a pain to figure out than useful. It sounds like there’s a growing backlash against such overly complex gadgets. The gadget makers don’t seem to have caught on to this year – but many people claim they’re putting off (or giving up altogether) certain purchases due to fears of the difficulty in using the devices. That should set of alarm bells for gadget makers, but most seem to have not received the message.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “How Do You Work This Damn Gadget?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
alternatives says:

Re: Cyclical Fashions

In the 1980s, there was also a fad of overly complex gadgets — washing machines with a hundred buttons, sports cars with space shuttle-like consoles. The 90s had a backlash,

Do you have any proof of this, like a marketing study or 2?

Or is this an ‘observation’ of yours dorpus?

dorpus says:

Re: Re: Re: Cyclical Fashions

Also, there is a 1980s movie called “El Norte”, about Guatemalan siblings who immigrate illegally into the US. In one scene, the maid is supposed to wash clothes, but looks at the washing machine with a hundred buttons on it, is completely unable to figure it out, so she ends up drying the clothes on the lawn. (She loses her job.)

Ed (not Yourdon) says:

maybe not for everyone

Maybe it’s just that I’m a technophile, but as soon as I figure out what all of the buttons on a gadget are for, I begin to lose interest in it. This goes back at least to the TI-30 calculator I had in seventh grade. I had no idea what an inverse hyperbolic tangent was, but there was a button on that calculator in case I ever needed it. The same was true for my first 35mm SLR. I probably never actually used the depth-of-field-stop-down-preview button, but it was there. Digital cameras are marvelous in this respect, and PCs are the ultimate gadget, since each new application or new version of an existing application adds countless more “buttons” or their equivalent.

Beck says:

Real Life Example

My elderly father-in-law was bedridden and depended on his television remote control. My mother-in-law would call me every couple of weeks because the remote had stopped working. It always turned out to be because he had pressed a button that he shouldn’t have. Finally I bought him a new remote control, and then with a razor blade I removed all of the buttons that he should not use, leaving just the buttons that turned the TV on and off, selected the channel, and adjusted the volume. Problem solved.

Ed Halley says:

shoppers' dilemma

It seems like feature count is sexy in the store, but not sexy when you get it home. Why is that?

It’s not like there aren’t enough choices on the market. If you want a simple camera, buy a simple camera. They exist, they’re easy to find, you’ll have no trouble using them.

The extra features can be left alone if you don’t want to use them. But for every person who doesn’t know what that DOF preview is, there’s an experienced photographer who wouldn’t buy a camera without it.

Personally, I am not an early adopter. I say this, even though I’ve been using digital cameras for six years. I research my next model according to the features I *know* I’ll want. I wait until it’s down to the price I want. Then I buy it.

I also give new photographers this advice: read the manual while the first battery is charging, and at the end of Day 1, Week 1, Month 1 and Year 1. Each time you read it, more of it will make sense. Also, for each feature you want to understand, take a few pictures with and without, and compare them closely.

Beck says:

Re: shoppers' dilemma

The problem (or maybe just my perception) is that the models without all of the features are lower-quality in other ways as well. For example, if you take a photo with the simple digital camera and the same photo with the complex digital camera with the full set of features that are all at the default setting, which one takes a better picture?

In other words, if I buy a simple device I would want the exact same as the complicated device but with all of the options stripped off and set to default values. The manufacturer assumes that if I don’t want features then I am a price shopper and therefore I will also accept lower quality.

I guess the dilemma is that people who shop by price alone will give up features AND quality, but I wonder if there is a demand for fewer features without giving up quality, but still paying more than the bottom-of-the-line model. Maybe we all have the mindset that to pay more there must be more features.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...