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Stuff That Smashes Impressively But Not Terminally

Products that integrate into the respect boundary of human ownership and interaction.
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Part of the normal usage cycle for much technological product lines involves, for the large part, sitting there performing the task for which it was designed, and looking good while it does it. A small but neglected part of the usage lifecycle, especially where product design is concerned, is the failure episode. Often, but not always, this will occur almost at the end of the product's useful life, usually as the penultimate but one stage in the relationship between product and user.

What I would suggest, to all product designers is to integrate this hitherto ignored but almost predictable phase of operation into the structural design of the product.

When, as had happened to me this week, I was made three hours late by a laser printer that repeatedly did not print all the pages, I found myself required to engage in the second phase of ownership of the product, which is a considerably less passive state. The physical interaction generally involves rationally unplugging the unit in question, gripping it with ones hands and raising it high above oneself - a very intimate relationship of misbehaving product and expressive user. The culmination of this phase is to throw the unit with customary force against a 'ground' - this can often be the ground that immediately presents itself, but sometimes the ritual involves locating ground outside of the building, often with large altitudinal differential to the original engagement point. In some cases, defenestration is also required, and indeed, is a tremendous enhancement to this phase. However, in one's own home, the defenestration phase presents itself alongside a fairly swiftly progressing rationalisation flowchart of options, resulting in the election of skipping the defenestration phase if one owns the glass in question, or if ones wife will arrive home within the processes allotted time.

The reward involved in this entire intimate phase instigated by non-delivery of promised service on the part of the unit, is the very real and tangible satisfaction of seeing the misbehaving unit smash into as many pieces as possible. Increased sensations are stimulated as the visual recognition of inside parts of the unit that you never knew existed are revealed, along with plus marks on the score for physical state transitions of recognisable parts into new and original arrangements. The more evidence of state transition, the greater the reward.

In the case of my printer, this week, I had to repeat the exercise, as the first time didn't reap enough transitioned components. Increased velocity was clearly needed - I was obviously doing it wrong the first time (hardly surprising, as nowhere in the manual are there ever any details on how the user is supposed to engage in this particular phase of product ownership and participation). The second time, having calibrated my responses and actions from the first one, were suitably rewarding. Pieces of plastic and paper everywhere, in a most creative and expressive arrangement.

However, after leaving the house for several hours and returning, the realisation that there's no possible way of affording a replacement for this much depended-upon item of utility dawned. The only solution would be to reassemble the unit. This I managed to do (in the same way that our Dyson vacuum cleaner now shows evidence of reassembly and structural warping effects) and the printer now works as badly as it ever does (it seems likely that it was a software fault after all, but software doesn't offer this bonus phase in user-interaction at all - a huge and fundamental disadvantage in my opinion) but the extra supply of broken plastic clips, screw bushings and housings, fractured plastic edges and split and damaged moulding interfaces merely acts as a reward trophy for this unit. In other words, this unit has the potential to offer this interaction phase over and over.

It occurred to me, that products should be designed to offer this phase of ownership, on a repeated basis. Instead of the one time it goes too far, being the terminal act it instigates, it should be just one of many 'lesson teaching' episodes. Equipment would be respected and integrated into the ownership process to a greater degree if it lived to be put back together with battle scars, each time it required teaching a lesson.

What I'm suggesting is that this phase of product interaction be intentionally designed in to the product design stage - the fixings, plastic mouldings, cases, shells, struts and structures should all be designed to a] smash into as many impressive pieces as possible, and then b] allow full reintegration and reassembly in the case of a mistaken engagement. Design stuff that can be smashed into as many pieces, most impressively, then allow full reassembly and continued function.

Ian Tindale, Feb 19 2005

Our Dyson sucks http://tindale.dyn....ysondismantled.html
Unofficial disassembly instructions [Ian Tindale, Feb 19 2005]

Throwing Monkey Throwing_20Monkey
[tekym, Feb 20 2005]

[link]






       [Ian], how about "make everything out of legos" +   

       a bit wordy
dentworth, Feb 19 2005
  

      

I recently had a number of products that went through such a state transition. All at the same time, overnight. And the transition was even more remarkable in that the products became invisible and intangible. After complaining at some length to the manufacturers, they suggested that the items in question might in fact have been stolen, as a state transition to invisibility and intangibility was presently outside their technological expertise (they were fairly adamant about that). So I called the local authorities and made a report as to the disappearances of my products.

Of course, I said, it might just be a state transition inbuilt by the manufacturers.

Ah? the authority said.

It’s a failure mode to invisibility and intangibility, I said, although a bit coincidental that they all transitioned at once.

The authority tapped his pencil against his report, as if considering that, and then said, well yes, ah, Mr..., he looked down at his form and repeated my real name, very slowly, like maybe I had difficulty in understanding my own name. The twit! Ah, yes, Mr. X, we’ll get back to you in the next couple of weeks or so.

They didn’t, as you might expect. But as I said to the authorities, I’m not taking the manufacturer’s word that it wasn’t a state transition. I’m still waiting and watching. They might just come back one day, spontaneous like, in full working order, fully visible, fully tangible. I wait patiently, convinced that this is only a 'lesson teaching' episode.

Thank you Ian, for your insight.
ldischler, Feb 19 2005
  

       "In case of emergency, break glass."
RayfordSteele, Feb 19 2005
  

       That's a very Python-esque title you've written there, Mr. Tindale. Applause.
tekym, Feb 20 2005
  

       [Ian], in the fast paced world of stripping abused disowned electronic components, it's called the coup de gras. There's only one or two things wrong with something that doesn't work. Why take it out on the whole box? I see the kick marks, the punched in dents, the head butt tissue samples but it was only a cheezee that fell out of your shirt pocket that jammed the thing.
mensmaximus, Feb 20 2005
  

       The point about software is good - maybe software should be smashable (although the concept of 'defenestration' in a context of Microsoft operating system hegemony is an interesting one) so that after hitting Word, for example, with a virtual hammer one is left with several smaller applications, most of which don't work, one of which does spell-checking and another which displays a ruler on the screen.
hippo, Feb 20 2005
  

       // why take it out on the whole box //   

       [mens] have you ever owned a printer? It's not that they're contrary or intransigent, it's the fact that they hate people. Love it, [IT] - how often have I wanted to punt a computer down the corridor? You're right, though - the end result of this should look suitably devastated but still work when you realise you still need it. An alternative might be a dummy printer to redirect your aggression, or possibly a printer voodoo doll.
moomintroll, Feb 20 2005
  

       [Moomintroll]. Yes I own five formerly dysfunctional printers at the moment. Bought them second hand for a total $10. They all work now. I see they have a number of photo-interrupters that needed blown out. Dust from the room will knock the CPU out via these. Nothing was worn down in any of them. Possibly the electro-mechanical driver chips are overheating on over ten pages so operate it in a dust-free cool dry location.   

       I am now back-tracing their electronics so I can use them in projects.
mensmaximus, Feb 20 2005
  

       hippo, - "one is left with several smaller applications, most of which don't work, one of which does spell-checking and another which displays a ruler on the screen."   

       I've always wondered how they make those open-source linux applications.
Ian Tindale, Feb 20 2005
  

       This reminds me of a number of things I built with Lego power functions. If something I built turned out to be prone to breaking/falling apart, not serving it's "intended purpose" very well, or I just plain got bored with it, I got some final enjoyment out of it by smashing it. Then I could build something else out of the "remains" :)
Dickcheney6, Feb 13 2011
  

       As [hippo] points out, there remains the problem of achieving catharsis with faulty software. I suggest that the product should scream and weep and beg for mercy as you beat it. This works equally well for hardware and software.   

       Just dont tell PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Appliances.)
mouseposture, Feb 13 2011
  

       I remember a program called Stress Relief on Windows 98 (I think) - let you smash/burn/destroy programs that were behaving badly.
mitxela, Feb 14 2011
  
      
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