Gadget rage?

Two years ago a friend gave me a voice recorder, which I was planning to use for a particular project. It was a top-of-the-range piece of equipment and probably cost a lot of money. But its operation is anything other than intuitive, and to be perfectly honest I just couldn’t work it out, and put it away. This morning, two years on, I took it out again and had a look at the instructions. I couldn’t make head or tail of them at all. They were certainly not written by a native English speaker (or a German speaker, as I had a go at that version also). I have given up.

And just as I admitted defeat I saw that a survey has been done that reveals that at Christmas people on average spend four hours reading and trying to understand instructions for gadgets, leading to something the report calls ‘gadget rage’. I wonder how many cupboards contain unused gadgets that we never actually managed to make work, because we couldn’t follow the instructions. Humanity has come so far: can we not find people to write manuals that can actually be understood? Or is that beyond the potential for evolution of our species?

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7 Comments on “Gadget rage?”

  1. belfield Says:

    Reading manuals? Life is too short… 🙂

  2. cormac Says:

    It’s much worse if you’re a scientist – on top of the frustration of not getting the thing to work, you feel you’re not much of a scientist if you can’t figure it out!

  3. kevin denny Says:

    The badly written instructions problem is widespread. I think much of the problem is that they are written by the techy types who really understand the equipment so they have no insight into how a non-techy novice might see it.
    I remember a colleague describe a lab experiment he did with students, testing game theory or something. He mentioned how they were given a full set of instructions before they started playing but only the Germans read them.

  4. Miguel Says:

    In the future as science goes on, a simple word will start any engine.
    Future people will see to us as prehistoric.
    I still remenber when we used the walkman and its tapes, hours and hours to go back the tape.
    We are not lucky.

  5. This extends WAY beyond consumer gadgets. Very expensive professional grade equipment is often accompanied by user and technical manuals which border on incomprehensible. When I was active in industry years ago, some companies had a reputation for this kind of tripe. Indeed some had the status of legend and when new gear arrived, techies went straight to the manuals to see how bad they were and to have a laugh.

  6. Niall Says:

    There is still a need for good technical writers who can explain the gadget to the non-technical user.

  7. Vincent Says:

    Ho ho ho, I bought myself a metronome/tuner that wouldn’t switch between functions. German it was, I rang them at home in Bavaria and it turned out that they had translated into English with an error. I felt quite sorry for them for either they were genuinely upset or the best actors ever. And that certainly isn’t the rep’.

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