June 17, 2009

Who designs this hardware, anyway?

I dunno if its just me, but there's something incredibly sad about the designers of PC hardware. 

OK, so I'm just a little annoyed; once more my USB key has taken a hit, and once more I'm lucky to get the data off it, but once more there goes another bunch of dollars thanks to the guy who  figured that a gadget that sticks out of a laptop by a good 3 cm minimum is safe as houses.  I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist, so I don't really subscribe to the view they're deisgned like that so you have to buy a new one every 6 months, but...

There's not a whole lot of point getting fussed about it; PC's have been designed by the people who play FPS after hours for years, and they still look like it.

I would have thought that someone by now would have wondered if a brick about 4x0.5x1 cm was a great way of carrying sensitive data.  It's got a fairly ugly/ useless mechanism for hooking it onto a keyring, can't fit in a wallet easily, and the people who design PC's seem to have gone out of their way to make sure you can't have it in a semi-protected location when reading data.  I mean, why doesn't it slot in more like a small- form CD or SD card?  Especially in laptops?  And this one is better than my last laptop; it had power and USB inputs on the back, where they were conveniently out of sight when the kids did something stupid... mobile computing is only for the rich, it would seem.

Smartphones are another good example.  I don't mind the look of them; square and black functions pretty well for me (mind you, I'm of an age where I think Kojak had a pretty good haircut).  My significant other, however... disagrees.   Carrying around a smartphone with the dimensions of mine is great when you've got a belt, or a desk.  For mobile workers, especially those who don't like the bulky pocket look, there's a few steps to go.  Joe 90 may not be alive, but his wardrobe supervisor does seem to be designing our hardware.

PC's are a third.  I find it hard to believe that anyone has ever got their significant other in a lab, told them to design a container for a PC and left them to it.  There's a ton of options that _should_ be available.  They're not.  Why, for example, can't you make it look like a vase?  or buy a desk with the PC built in?  Most of us buy the desktop, then the desk to put it on top of. 

Why does IT hardware have to look like a cardboard box with exterior paint?  Yeah, I know there's some exotic options, for those who have a few extra hundred dollars.  It's a coat of paint though...and I'd argue Nokia did so well in the phone market because all those teenage girls could reskin their phones at little cost (and, in all likelihood, their fashionista brothers had to keep up with the looks too).

In summary, can someone rethink:

  Colour.  For people who want to use hardware (as opposed to programming it), image is everything.  And they've got a point!  The colour of our world affects the way we interact with it.  If a couple of graphic designers did the phone casings, non-tech people would look at them.  Currently, they're just boxes with screens.

Shape.  While I'm happy to have a PC, it's not because of what it is, it's what it does.  So can we move on from the "my box is bigger than your box" look, and get on with making it fit into our living instead of vice versa?

Common sense.  USB keys are portable and universal.  So, like keys, pens and wallets, why aren't they durable, and where are the common-sense features that would make them safer and longer- lasting?  Why do they have to stick out the side of laptops when in use, looking like targets for youngsters to swing off?  

rant done.

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