Thursday, January 28, 2010

Interface & Interaction Matter

For those who don't get what the iPad is all about (more on that in another post), let me tell you about a recent experience:

My home A/V setup is complicated to use. I have a TV with only two inputs, a DVD/VCR combo unit with only two inputs (and the VCR doesn't output on S-Video by design), a Wii, and a MacBook Pro that I sometimes want to hook up.

To watch TV: turn on the TV.

To watch a DVD: turn on the TV, set it to Video 1 (S-Video), Turn on the DVD/VCR, set it to DVD mode.

To watch a tape: turn on the TV, set it to Video 2, Turn on the DVD/VCR, set it to VCR mode.

To play the Wii: turn on the TV, set it to Video 2, Turn on the DVD/VCR, set it to VCR mode, set the channel to Line 1, turn on the Wii.

To watch the Mac: turn on the TV, set it to Video 2, Turn on the DVD/VCR, set it to VCR mode, set it to Line 2, plug in the Mac.

To shut things off: shut each device off separately.

It worked, and being cheap^H^H^H^H^Hfrugal, I was happy.

And then the TV remote finally died. So I had to buy a new one. Over the years, I've heard good things about the Harmony remote, so I splurged AND got the cheapest model, the Logitech Harmony 510. Now, the Harmony remote is activity based; you program it with all the above steps, it turns on and off and sets the appropriate devices.

To watch TV: Press "Activities" followed by TV button.

To watch a DVD: Press "Activities" followed by the DVD button.

To watch a tape: Press "Activities" followed by the tape button.

To play the Wii: Press "Activities" followed by the Wii button. Then pick up the Wii controllers.

To watch the Mac: Press "Activities", followed by a next page button (only room for four activities on the main screen), followed by the Mac button. (I still have to hook it up because I'm too cheap^H^H^H^H^Hfrugal to buy a Mac Mini and wireless video isn't quite here yet.) Surprisingly, it also lets me control Front Row on my Mac directly from the remote.

To shut things off: Press the power button.

It turns out, I wasn't happy before.

I'm very happy now. It is now a real pleasure to do any of those activities, all because of the remote. Who knew?

I've had this inspiration before, where I realized I had put up with far too much frustration: the first time I hooked a Mac up to a network (1990), reading the Unix Hater's Handbook (1994), the first time I got wireless (1999), my first iPhone (2007).

When do I expect this to happen to me again? When I get an iPad.

Now, a friend of mine got my kids the Magic Wand remote. I'll have to learn how to use that one as well, if only for the cool Harry Potter factor.


Blogger markm said...

That wand is cool but, at $90, I think I'll have to pass.

6:27 AM  

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