Gadgets That Are Stupid, #2

By | November 5, 2004

In the second of my series on gizmos “that seem to do things right but suffer a design flaw that renders them hazardous to one’s health, or peace of mind, or that of one’s partner” I present the bedside console of The Wharney Hotel in Hong Kong.

These kind of things are popular in hotels and this room is brand spanking new. And on the surface everything looks to be there and in the right place: clock, alarm, do not disturb, radio, buttons for each light and a master switch.

But the same old problems linger: Every button — and the red LED that comes with it — looks pretty much the same. There’s no real logic to the layout — lighting buttons are both on the far left and far right of the console, for example — and there’s nothing really obvious to distinguish between a button to change the alarm and one to turn a light off. Try to find the right switch in the darkness in the middle of the night and you’re as likely to start-up some muzak (which seems to come from under the bed) as you are to raise the lights. I noticed, too, that the radio channels on a similar console in the bathroom are different to those in the bedroom.

But most irritating is the piercing beep that accompanies every press of a button. While the only person to get disturbed by this is my cuddly reindeer Mr. C, I would imagine that spouses, partners or other family members sleeping in the same room would not be delighted to hear a symphony of monophonic, monotonic beeps accompany every clumsy midnight trip to the bathroom.

When are designers going to get a grip on this kind of thing?

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