How Do We Work with the Machines?

Now that nearly every household object employs complex electrical inner workings, the importance of simplified interfaces is paramount.


Now that nearly every household object employs complex electrical inner workings concealed by a decorative skin, the importance of simplified interfaces is paramount. This new age of consumer electronics can be readily understood as one of the first moments in history in which invention and design were truly married, aligning function with experience.For better or worse, some products that have shaped our world have resulted not from designing for man's best interest, but from simple necessity. Take the layout of the English keyboard, commonly referred to as QWERTY. Long before the advent of the user interface, Christopher Sholes (who invented the modern typewriter in the 1860s) had a problem; as he perfected his invention, he noticed that with an alphabetical arrangement of the keys, neighboring key bars activated in rapid succession were becoming entangled with one another. To mitigate the problem, he rearranged the keys so as to separate the most common letter pairings. The redesign proved successful and the typewriter hammered itself into history.But it turns out that the QWERTY keyboard is rather inefficient. Nearly 70 years later, Dr. August Dvorak, having methodically studied the physiology of typists, came up with an alternative arrangement aimed at alleviating fatigue and increasing productivity. The new keyboard setup, dubbed the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, has been recognized in many circles as superior, yet QWERTY lingers to this day, largely because of the logistical and financial nightmare of replacing the world's keyboards.The QWERTY keyboard was designed to prevent typewriters from jamming when common letter pairings were struck in rapid succession. Eventually, computing will conceal mechanics entirely. Indeed, user interfaces now deal largely with the virtual. While Apple's new iPhone evinces little change in form from the conventional cell phone, its interactive software represents a radical leap forward. Then again, some conventions just can't be shaken-the iPhone's keypad uses a QWERTY layout, after all.-BRIAN FICHTNER

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The grandfather of modern product design is Dieter Rams, a legendary figure who led the design department at Braun electronics for more than 40 years. Credited with making the home stereo a decorative object of desire, his puritanical approach to design was evident in a rational, standardized program in which early products were offered in only white or gray, and all buttons and switches were tightly organized and color-coded only when necessary. The language was so precise that, even today, looking at his SK4 series of record players, or the regie 308 control unit, a user can intuit its controls.Recent decades have introduced computing into nearly every object we touch, creating entirely new systems of thought and symbol-based languages. Champions of Rams's design tenet-"less but better"-have met these challenges with admirable results.

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Jasper Morrison's designs for Rowenta and Olivetti appear to have evolved directly from the Braun legacy. His Linea office printer deploys mere lines and curves to describe the interface, also reducing visual clutter in a chaotic office environment.

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Naoto Fukasawa's products are examples of how reductive forms can produce an instinctive user experience. His wall-mounted CD player for Muji plays upon our collective memory; pull on the hanging cord (as you would a ceiling fan) and the CD starts playing through the integrated speaker.

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Jonathan Ive's tenure at Apple has brought consumers the most celebrated objects of our time. The iPod series represents a significant advancement in mobile media, but this iconic design may owe part of its success to a lesser-known predecessor; it would not be fallacious to note its similarities to the Braun model T3 pocket radio from 1958. Petter's pick:Like other rushed New Yorkers, I've stared down the tunnel looking for the beams of light or listening for that tick in the rail announcing an upcoming train. The scurrying rats are also a telltale sign that something is coming down the tracks. Thanks to the new LED screens displaying the arrival time of the next two trains on the platform of the L train to and from Brooklyn, I now know before the rodents do. That's progress.-PETTER RINGBOM
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WITI Milwaukee

Joey Grundl, a pizza delivery driver for a Domino's Pizza in Waldo, Wisconsin, is being hailed as a hero for noticing a kidnapped woman's subtle cry for help.

The delivery man was sent to a woman's house to deliver a pie when her ex-boyfriend, Dean Hoffman, opened the door. Grundl looked over his shoulder and saw a middle-aged woman with a black eye standing behind Hoffman. She appeared to be mouthing the words: "Call the police."

"I gave him his pizza and then I noticed behind him was his girlfriend," Grundl told WITI Milwaukee. "She pointed to a black eye that was quite visible. She mouthed the words, 'Call the police.'"

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Rochester NY Airport Security passing insulting notes to travelers caught on tape www.youtube.com

Neil Strassner was just passing through airport security, something he does on a weekly basis as part of his job. That's when a contract airport security employee handed him a small piece of folded cardboard. Strassner, 40, took the paper and continued on his way. He only paused when he heard the security employee shouting back at him, "You going to open the note?"

When he unfolded the small piece of paper, Strassner was greeted with an unprompted insult. "You ugly!!!"

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A post on the Murdered by Words subreddit is going viral for the perfect way a poster shut down a knee-jerk "double-standard!" claim.

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Most people would see the story as something positive. A dad goes out of his way to learn a skill that makes his daughter look fabulous.

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Coal mining is on the decline, leaving many coal miners in West Virginia without jobs. The Mine Safety and Health Administration says there are about 55,000 positions, and just 13,000 of those jobs are in West Virginia. The dwindling amount of work is leaving some struggling to make a living, but the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective is giving those coal miners a way to find new jobs and make a supplemental income as coal mining diminishes.

The Appalachian Beekeeping Collective trains coal miners and other low-income residents in mining communities to keep bees. Some coal miners are getting retrained to work in the tech industry, however beekeeping allows coal miners to continue to work in a job that requires a similar skill set. "The older folks want to get back to work, but mining is never going to be like it was in the '60s and '70s, and there is nothing to fall back on, no other big industries here, so all of these folks need retraining," former coal miner James Scyphers told NPR. "Beekeeping is hands-on work, like mining, and requires on-the-job training. You need a good work ethic for both."

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There was once a time in Florida where you could park your boat in your front lawn, but you were SOL if you wanted to grow squash and lettuce there. However, thanks to one Miami Shores couple, that's about to change.

Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll had been growing a front yard garden for 17 years, but in 2013, Miami Shores changed its city ordinance, making the activity illegal. The new city ordinance said that backyard vegetable gardens were a-OK, but Ricketts and Carroll couldn't keep a garden in their backyard because it didn't get enough sun. So the couple could either dig up their garden or face $50 in daily fines for letting it continue to grow. The couple opted to do neither and instead, they sued the city.

Ricketts and Carroll took their case to the Florida Supreme Court. Initially, the courts sided with Miami Shores, but the fight wasn't over. Florida State Senator Rob Bradley introduced legislation preventing "a county or municipality from regulating vegetable gardens on residential properties." Earlier this year, the Senate passed the bill 35-5.

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