What things would be designed differntly if they had to be made from scratch?

What i mean by this is say firearms for example. Over the years the design has been improved and perfected. There is not really any different way we could make the design and concept. But say things like CDs for example. Their basic shape and size where made just because some guy wanted to fit a specific symphony on them. If another guy was the lead designer all of our CDs and DVDs and computer drives might be a different size. My question is what piece of technology or equipment design is completely arbitrary and would be done completely different if they had to be designed again.

It’s not arbitrary, exactly, but the incandescent lightbulb is horribly inefficient and if we could “do it over” I imagine we’d start with compact flourescents or LEDs.


Obviously, the keys would be in different places. But they’d also probably be less of a grid, and more fitted to the shape of actual hands.


(Almost always), the things that the user really wants to control is depth of field and image sharpness. But the controls they’re given are aperture size and shutter speed. Sure, you can manipulate the latter to get the former, but it’s an extra step.


See Esperanto. Regular grammar, regular conjugation, regular syntax. All regular!

The SDMB? (D&R)

Automobiles. If they were designed from scratch today, I think they’d be quite a bit different.

As would the roads they drive on. Ideally, lanes would be wider. This would not only enable more space between cars in a laterial direction, but wider cars, which in the case of SUVs and big rigs would make them more stable.

No doubt physical media like CDs/DVDs would be designed with a physical element in them to attempt to make piracy impossible (not that it would work, but that’s another story).

Kitchen taps/faucet sets, whatever you want to call them.

If I was to design them from scratch today I would recognize that peoples hands will be wet when they touch them (duh!) and make a catcher tray/drainer that would allow the water to run off into the sink.

So that every woman, in every household, repeatedly, every day, doesn’t have to wipe the water off the counter after shutting off the taps after doing the dishes.

Also, if I could redesign cars, the bumpers would, y’know, bump. Maybe a spring mechanism, or a rubbery material. I’m not an engineer, but if you’re going to call it bumper…

Not so sure here. Rollovers are extremely rare, even among the most top-heavy vehicles.

Sure, everything would handle better if it was eight feet across, but imagine the resulting weight increases.

Computers are infinitely variable this way. The historical variability (all of the designs we tried in the past) doesn’t even begin to cover the possible field of valid, useful designs for computing hardware (and, therefore, software).

Operating systems. So much of the “excess baggage” in today’s popular operating systems is there for the sake of backwards-compatibility to older versions.

Well, not everything would take up almost the full width of the lanes, but certainly a few things would. In the case of semi’s, the added width would have big economic benefits. I don’t know what the incidence of rollovers are, but it’s high enough that they’re now going to require all new cars to have stability control as it can dramatically reduce the number of rollovers.

Along that same line, I’ve always felt the the widest part of EVERY car should be at the same height off the ground. That way wheather someone bumped your car (anywhere aroud the perimeter) in a minor fender bender or someone opened their door into yours, it would always hit in the same spot. Then the car makers could put something around that edge that is somewhat easily replaceable. Does that make sense? It does in my head.

The Querty system would be out. Dvorak in.
That is all.

And boooooring!

Yes, we COULD have a made-from-scratch, clean, efficient, low-maintenance, easily-learned language, but I’d be bored to death reading it. English is an incredibly exciting language BECAUSE it’s made up of centuries of layers and accretions and borrowings and centuries-later reborrowings of the same word…it’s the reason “nude” means something just slightly different than “naked”, the reason I can use four completely different words that all mean “move” in the sentence, “I ______ down the street” and have four completely different sentences, the reason I can make a distinction between “dog”, “mutt”, “cur”, “mongrel”, and “hound”, five words that mean the same thing but still make the sentence I use them in mean five different things.

TTYs. As I’ve said several times, they look and work like they were designed in Soviet Russia in the 50s. Beige, clunky, etc. Gah. It’s a royal pain in the ass these days to have to maintain an analog landline just for TTYs. And buy heat sensitive printer paper, which you usually have to go to Office Depot in person for these days as they aren’t always listed on the website. Deal with a clunky keyboard with steep key pitches. Single line monochrome LCDs that don’t do well with caps or anything. A huge wall wart that can be hard to plug into an available socket unless you have plenty of room.

These days, we’d probably just go with a program integrated with wireless networks. One that uses updated communication protocols. Please. The available apps are clunky and by necessity held back by the antiquated protocols that current TTY technology uses.

We do have a very few mobile TTYs that you have to buy specific phones from the early 90s to work with, via an unwieldy cable or using acoustic ports. :dubious:

I want a mobile TTY that’s got onboard wireless for Og’s sake! One that’s got a nice big screen, logging ability like with IM clients, and syncability so I can pull those logs off onto the desktop! HW design from UX engineers who are not from Siberia, who have seen the kind of cool shit Apple can do, what Nintendo’s done with Nintendo DS Lites and their awesome battery life/sleep mode, etc.

That said, while a lot of people use Blackberries and the internet to communicate, a lot of businesses and government entities still use TTYs, so. :frowning:


but you have to figure about how these things were designed…QWERTY was made to slow typist down so the typewriters would not jam. And the idea carried over into computers. If typewriters would designed again the keylayout would not be DVORAK because it would be to fast

I’d guess most cities. If you could rearrange where all the major arteries were, street sizes, commercial districts, etc… it would probably make things easier for all involved.

Having also lived in SLC where everything is arranged in a neat perfect grid with all addresses based on a NSEW coordinate system, I can attest to the ease of finding anything there. No one ever gave you directions to their house, they just gave you an address and you immediately knew where it was. It was a beautiful thing… one of the few beautiful things about the city…

Rail travel. Locomotives and related technology have advanced considerably since the mid-1800s, but the rails have not changed much (except to have gotten heavier, to carry heavier loads). This is because if you ever changed the guage of the rails, or used a different kind of track, suddenly your fleets of cars and engines are obsolete. But, if we were starting over, we would probably use mag-lev propulsion with more straightaways, fewer elevation changes and long, banking curves to facilitate high-speed travel.

I know exactly what you’re talking about. Someone tried it once, and the results leave a little something to be desired.

but you could not do that starting over. you would not have the technology

That’s the entire point. Computer keyboards don’t jam, but we’re stuck with qwerty because it was carried over from typewriters.

How about humans? Having a breathing hole you don’t use to eat is an obvious improvement.