A few months ago I bought Captain OCD a new clock radio because the old one emitted enough blue light to knit a sweater by. The new one is compact and not too bright. And extremely difficult to use. First, the volume dial is on top, at the back, so every time you move the clock you bump up the volume, but don’t realize it until you peel yourself off the ceiling the next time the alarm goes off. Turning off the alarm while the music is playing is no problem, but he usually wakes up before the alarm goes off, and turning off the alarm before it goes off at its regularly scheduled time requires a different set of skills. A combination of buttons half the size of a gnat, and with explanatory labels in 1.7 point type, must be depressed in a specified sequence while at the same time making the sign of the cross. Consequently, it usually went off after he’d gotten up and was already in the other room watching Mr. Rogers for Old People (The Weather Channel, or Northwest Cable News) and I have better things to do at 4:30 AM than be awoken. As much as I wanted to blame his difficulties with the alarm function on his reluctance to embrace anything new that I decide he needs, he was right – its design was obviously never tried on human beings who might be asleep in a dark room when it was time to interact with the device.
Yesterday I bought a new clock radio with a much better human/machine interface. I got it all set up and showed him how to use it. Compared to this, it’s apparent that the old one was going for some sort of form over function design award. Since it was Friday night, I turned the alarm function off, and we’ll see if he was listening and can turn it back on on Sunday night.
This Saturday morning at 4:30 we are awoken to music, loud music. Oh, please, let’s not start that again. We’re trying to figure out how to turn the new new clock radio off, which I swear I turned off last night (which also means that I have no one else to blame for this rude awakening), and which is proving difficult because we were startled out of our sleep and the clock and its buttons are new to us: “Yes, I am hitting the Off button!” was the answer to my less-than-helpful question.
The old new clock is sitting nearby, unplugged. When it is unplugged, the face is black and the radio doesn’t work, which one would expect from an electrical device not plugged into an electrical source. Damn battery back-up, however, keeps the alarm function alive and well, although it can’t be bothered to let you know that it’s doing you such a big favor.