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Friday, March 27, 2009

Washing machine that wouldn’t work

We recently procured a new washing machine for our dorm. It’s quite latest technology front-loading IFB Senorita Dx fully automatic washing machine costing Senorita-DX about 20,000/-. With mere three buttons on front panel ‘Start/Pause’, ‘Rinse’ and ‘Hold’ and a knob to set temperature, it’s also very simply designed. No more trouble of setting wash time or rinse time, just put detergent and press ‘Start’. So what exactly is the problem? Hint: It’s not in the title.

Just hold on to the above and consider its users in our dorm. Washing machine will be used by residents of post-graduate program in management in one of the premier business colleges of the country. Why is that important? Now, we are not arrogant, but we are also not stupid. We’d like to believe that we are at least few points of above average intelligence. Heck, we are at least post-graduate students and many have engineering backgrounds. Ok, so you ask, once again, why is that important?

Well, it’s important because how this machine works has stumped every single person in this twenty member dorm. How can it, if it’s fully automatic push-and-go as I say, you wonder? Frankly, I don’t know, but I will try to answer. More importantly, though, is the fact that I refuse to take blame. If a design fails 20 reasonably intelligent people then fault must lie with the designer. If an idiot cannot figure out, he is to be blamed. If 100 idiots cannot figure out, company should change its design or close the shop.

So exactly what gives? Well, firstly, one of two slots on left (1) is for detergent and another is for fabric-softener but it is not marked which is for which. Secondly, knob (5) has exactly same readings on right half and on left half. Differentiation is neither obvious nor clear. Thirdly, pushing ‘Start’ button (2) turns monitor light red, locks the door, and machine still shows no sign of life. Pushing ‘Start’ button again unlocks the door and light starts blinking. User has no clue what that means and why. Apparently, machine appears dead because in its infinite wisdom it’s calculating automatic settings depending on load and temperature setting. However, this calculation takes anywhere from five minutes to twenty minutes. Sometimes, when you come back half-an-hour later it still is dead. Then one has to push button in frustration until there is some noise signifying response. It’s frustrating to deal with something that just sits mockingly at you! When it starts working finally, it stops only after three hours of washing, rinsing and drying all clothes. Oh yeah, there are four lights (4) apart from start light which blink to some meaning unknown to user. Buttons for ‘Rinse’ and ‘Hold’ (3) serve purpose unknown to me.

You tell me, whose fault it is? Or better you don’t, since it’s not mine. If one needs a manual to figure out a washing machine, then life is doomed. How can company expects common public to use this machine? Of course, one can say, rightly so, that in matters such as these, lesser the intelligence better it is; or to frame alternatively, common man is more smarter than educated man. Now, as I had written on my earlier blog (in Hindi) that if designer cannot even design ergonomics and layout of such simple operation in intuitive interface, am I not right in cursing him every two weeks when I use this evil equipment? Smart designer doesn’t screw-up so simple a system. For example, if people commonly attempt opening the door by pulling rather than pushing when it’s designed for later, it’s sign of poor design. And it tells a lot about how little attention is paid that nearly all doors have sign telling ‘push’ or ‘pull’.