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An old guy rant for the new year

Question asked by Gary Lucas on Dec 31, 2016
Latest reply on Jan 12, 2017 by Don Carter

We upgraded? from SW2015 to SW2017 before Christmas. Suddenly the world of SW has gone from 3D back to 2D! Color, the third dimension has suddenly disappeared. We are back to interpreting tiny drawings (icons for you young guys) based on line type, thickness, and the concept that an it is intuitive that an octagon means stop. When computer screens got color suddenly CAD became possible without screens that could display line width and line type. We were trained in the use of line widths, and line types, the language of drawings that the shop also speaks.


Stepping into my Way Back machine and looking at Lotus123 which was an early icon user interface, I would test a Lotus users expertise using one of their magazine ads featuring a border of about 200 of their icons. No one could ever tell me what more than about 20% of them did! But they are intuitive! Nope they are like the octagon used in the context of the word Stop. Icons are a language that you learn. Suddenly I find myself at Starbucks sitting at my desk, trying to order a medium size coffee.  "You'd like a Tall sir?" I suspect we now have a cadre of young clueless graphics artists used to texting designing the user interface.


I design user interfaces for the PLCs that I program to run waste water treatment plants. These displays are low resolution and color plays a large part in operator understanding at an unconscious level. A green background means you are looking at a filtering screen, blue background is a cleaning screen, white is a parameter entry screen, etc. Imagine if everytime I update a PLC program I changed the screen colors just because I can!


This loss of knowledge applies to the physical world as well. A perfect example, a battery powered drill. They are almost useless for things like drilling holes and driving screws, because the handle design is all wrong!  I suspect this may have been intentional when battery drills were first introduced. They had very little torque so you could easily overload them if you pushed hard. So by locating the handle off the center line of the drill bit it reduced how hard you could push without bending the drill bit and breaking it or skidding off.  Look at corded drills, every single one has a handle you can grip using your thumb and forefinger, while pulling the trigger with your pinky. Used this way you can push really hard without bending and breaking the drill bit, or dropping the screw you are driving and gouging the work piece. This knowledge has been apparently lost by the young tool designers, even though the batteries and motors now have plenty of power.


Rant over, Happy New Year!