When moving forward isn't really moving forward...

I work in a brand-new building (less than a year old) that cost over $20 million - and in place of light switches, we have these modern-looking arrays of buttons. It’s definitely a step down - you can’t easily tell which button goes with which lights and turning them on and off is a small, but Mxyzptlk-level returning annoyance.
What new and modern convenience turns out to be a step away from progress (and towards congress?) in your life?

Car radios.

Used to be two knobs. One for tuning and one for volume, and to click for ‘on’. You could use those suckers at 120mph. Now? There have been times I’ve actually had to pull over just to change the station.

Lotus Notes. I mean, seriously?


This may be a Dutch thing, but designer taps in public restrooms. There’s been a trend lately that all simple taps have been replaced by design taps, all different. It’s almost fun to watch someone approach the wash basin and:

[li]try turning some part of it, clockwise or counterclockwise; [/li][li]if that doesn’t work, wave a hand around it in the hope that will set off some hidden sensor; [/li][li]when that doesn’t help, tap the thing on what appears the top; [/li][li]and when that fails, try and pull some part in any possible direction that may be a handle, or that may be the tap itself. [/li][li]look for someting in the wall to press, manipulate or wave against. [/li][/ul]

It’s funny, unless it’s you performing the “tap-magic”.
Oh, and Windows Vista and the New Microsoft Office that comes with it.

Knobs of all kinds.

My first car was a 1958 Beetle, and the only ‘knob’ was to switch on the reserve petrol tank…no radios in those babies, heh!

In our latest car there are so many fucking knobs I don’t know which is what…the dashboard is so friggin’ complicated with bobs, baubles and illuminated numbers signifying all sorts of things. The Bloke still gets confused and switches on the wiper-blades instead of the blinkers too. Must piss off the other road punters no end!!

Shower knobs in hotels. The kind where it is one big knob that manages pressue and temperature. I swear sometimes I fell like a safe cracker trying to take a shower.

The new software in both my workplaces - although the two jobs/companies are unrelated, they both ended up with the same software package (though one spent mega-millions more on customisation than the other).

In my transport/despatch role, the new software offers advantages such as clicking through multiple screens to get all the necessary information about a despatch instead of having it all displayed on one screen like in the primitive old program. Oh, and now we have to manually look up and write some information on despatch manifests unlike in the bad old days of the other program, which automatically included that information and didn’t require further intervention (insignificant stuff like, oh, where it’s been despatched from). This, incidentally, is the workplace that customised the software.

In my retail job, it means we no longer have a live inventory of what’s in the store. No, that information is updated once every 24 hours. We can’t tell you how many ACME 22" Monitors we have in stock now, but we can tell you how many we had when the store opened this morning. Come back tomorrow morning and we can tell you how many we had left at the end of today! Also, no distinction is made between customer returns and active stock, so if the system says we have three of those monitors but we can’t locate them in the warehouse (and no one recalls selling them during the day), we have to check to see if they are in the service department waiting to be sent off for repair. Oh, and though I’d have thought that even the inaccurate inventory count would be better than nothing on the pricing guns info screen, the powers that be decided that information is better accessed via a report. So if you see empty spots on the shelves and you want to know if there is more stock waiting to be put out, you need to scan the barcode(s), synch with the upstairs computer, go back to the downstairs computer, access the reports generation program, request it to print, wait +/-15 minutes for the print job to actually come through and then you’ll finally have that information at your fingertips. It’s almost too easy.

My newly built office has ‘intelligent’ lights which are supposed to change their illumination level depending on the light levels outside, plus ‘intelligent’ windows which are supposed to be temperature sensitive. The lights are often unbearably glaring, and earlier this week, on one of the coldest days of the year so far, the windows decided to open, making the temperature inside plummet to a borderline illegal level. It’s like the environment is controlled by Skynet’s dumber, albeit less apocalyptic, sibling.

Not only that, but some of my radios used to have little knobs for bass and treble, so those could be easily adjusted with beep-beep-beep-beeping your way through menus.

Winshield wiper refills.
Apparently you can’t get them anymore. You used to be able to buy refills (just the thin rubber strips) for a couple bucks when yours wore out.
Now the only way you can get them is to replace the entire metal blade for $15 a wiper.

Have you seen the ones where to switch between shower and tub, you have to pull down on this nearly invisible ring that protrudes from the tub spout? I stayed in a hotel room with one and had to call down to the front desk to figure out how to use the shower. Ridiculous.

Yeah I had those in my old house. Real subtle. Worked fine for 15 years, but a friend of mine went to take a shower one time and wound up taking a bath instead because he couldn’t figure out how to switch to shower.

In a similar vein, I hate hate HATE the sensors on faucets in public bathrooms. My previous office had one of those, as well. Without fail, it turns itself off while I’m washing my hands, and sometimes it’s freakishly cold/hot and there’s no way to regulate temperature. What the hell is so wrong with turning on/off your own faucet? Like I need ANOTHER incentive not to wash my hands…

And the sensors on the paper towel dispensers. I don’t think I’ve ever run across one that worked properly, and gave me enough paper towel to actually dry my hands.

I remember the This Old House episode where they returned to an innovative house they built years earlier. The house had sky lights that were supposed to open automatically. They opened during rain storms when it lightninged out.

I noticed this when I bought wiper blades a couple of weeks ago. It used to be that you could pull out the old strip of rubber, slide the new one in, and voila! You had a streak free windshield. Not anymore. I spent a good 15 minutes one Saturday trying to figure out how to remove the old blades. Fortunately a neighbor took pity on me and showed me how to swap the blades out. Otherwise I’d still be driving around with the old wiper blades on my car.

I recently stayed at a hotel that had a very complicated shower system. There were two knobs: one for water pressure and temperature, and the other … I honestly have no idea. I was too busy trying to figure out how to work the shower head. It was a foot-long wand with a horizontal line of jets that was precariously balanced on metal frame attached to the wall. The wand would either fall backward, causing water to spray at the ceiling, or fall down and shoot water straight toward the drain. It took me two days to figure out that I needed to tighten a knob on the side of the metal frame to lock the shower head into position.

When did basic hygiene become so complicated that it required an engineering degree?

I agree with Control-Z on the frustration of not having bass-treble controls on modern stereos. Now you have to shift through one word phrases like “rock” and “jazz” which are uniformly unhelpful. (“Rock” in a Fleetwood Mac or Motorhead sense?) Plus every one outside of the clear setting tends to create weird distortions of sound.
Another bathroom peeve is those stupid hand dryers, especially in places where there are no towels anymore. Even if you put your hands directly over the dryer, it never fully drys your hands and you end up having to smear them on your pants to get your hands dry.

The best ones are the ones that are just a little bit worn out so they won’t stay at one setting. You want to take a bath, you start filling the tub, you lean over to test the water temperature with your finger, and the damned knob slides to the shower setting, and you get the back of your head showered.

Speaking of public bathroom innovations–Seems like every public bathroom renovation these days includes those soap dispensers where just the pump part is sticking up from the countertop beside the sink. Nice, clean modern uncluttered design, right?

Except I don’t think I’ve EVER encountered one of those things that actually worked!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood there pumping the damn thing up and down to no avail, then trying all the other ones, and only THEN seeing the hideous Gojo hand soap dispenser that’s been unceremoniously glued to the wall as a necessary retrofit.