Compose. (No ideas but in things) Invent!
October 10, 2007 12:23 PM   Subscribe

No Ideas But In Things is a photoblog of dials, buttons, knobs, levers, handles, switches, and other pieces of user interface design.
posted by tepidmonkey (19 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
If you like this, may I direct you to my gallery of toilet flushing levers or my current exhibition on old-timey, swinging tavern doors?
posted by dead_ at 12:44 PM on October 10, 2007

What the fuck is wrong with me? I love this. No interest in those toilet levers, thanks, but if those swingin' tavern doors lead to a tavern or presage a rollicking barfight, ok.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 12:47 PM on October 10, 2007

Wow, that's weird. I took the annunicator photo. People actually use Creative Commons licensed stuff, apparently. How much of a coincidence is that?

Anyway, that's from a big oceangoing tug called the LT-5 (Large Tug #5; the Army doesn't get real creative about these things) in Oswego, NY. It's hisorically significant, if memory serves, because it was involved in the Normandy invasion.

Interesting site.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:13 PM on October 10, 2007

tepid, this is a very nice link, and a brilliant post title.

A Sort of Song
by William Carlos Williams

Let the snake wait under
his weed
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,
--through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No ideas
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
the rocks.

posted by digaman at 1:25 PM on October 10, 2007

I love this too, and I think for me it's because it's technology, and it's not necessarily new technology.
Many different eras and cultures represented.
Also: some things I used to own.
posted by MtDewd at 1:36 PM on October 10, 2007

I wish I could find more photos of the tide-predicting machine in the Deutsches Museum. In general, fascinating looking devices.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 2:03 PM on October 10, 2007

I took the annunicator photo

a) nice photo.

b) I wish I had some sort of massive control that made it easy for me to hook up.
posted by GuyZero at 2:42 PM on October 10, 2007

Also, how about them controls?
posted by GuyZero at 2:44 PM on October 10, 2007

Asperger's Porn.
posted by tula at 3:21 PM on October 10, 2007

Love the design of those various types of controls. Fun post tepidmonkey.

What is this job called, the people who design controls like those you linked?

The art of technology is beautiful.

Adding to the beauty, vintage Soviet radios, TVs etc. Lots of knobs.
posted by nickyskye at 4:38 PM on October 10, 2007

What is this job called, the people who design controls like those you linked?

I actually don’t know for sure the official name for this job. Based on this Wikipedia article I’d call it user interface engineering.
posted by tepidmonkey at 5:15 PM on October 10, 2007

Man-machine interfaces may look cooler these days, but essential communication isn't getting any easier. Compare NIBIT's 1947 Jeep dashboard to the 21st Century BMW (and Microsoft) iDrive.

From Donald Norman's 2004 article Interaction Design for Automobile Interiors:
Consider the new BMW Series 7 automobile. The automobile key is a personal identifier that instructs the car to adjust the seat, mirrors, steering column, etc. to the key owner's preferences. To start the engine, push the "Start" button. To turn the engine off? Push the same "Start" button. (Yes, it runs windows CE.)

"The iDrive plus display," says the sales brochure, is a "user-friendly interface (that) offers quick access to over 700 settings, plus navigations system maps, phone book listings, and more" One control, one display -- 700 settings? What were they thinking?

The New 7 series BMW no longer has all those knobs and buttons that clutter up the dashboard - you know, where each knob does one thing that you can count on. Instead, it has a single controller located on the center console that "functions similarly to a computer mouse." It drives a display in the center of the dashboard. It is called the iDrive: i for "intuitive".
Part of BMW's design philosophy is apparently working, though. Car buyers seem to intuitively know what works and what doesn't. From C/Net Reviews, June 19, 2006 — Tech design flaws hit Mercedes, BMW, and Audi in J. D. Power's 2006 study:
So what was behind this sudden slump? It turns out that this year's IQS [Initial Quality Study] factored in a whole new set of data on design flaws, which included the usability of each car's cabin technology. And it will come as little surprise to those who have spent hours wrangling with the iDrive and COMAND (BMW and Mercedes's driver interfaces, respectively) that the results show the integration of many advanced technology systems leaving quite a bit to be desired.
According to Neal Oddes, director of product research and analysis at J. D. Power, it is not technology per se that generates new problems, but rather its integration and execution. Oddes also points out that the nameplate ranking is an overall assessment that applies to the whole range of a carmaker's models, many of which are not equipped with the latest technology interfaces. However, the message to the designers is clear: If you're going to install technology to make drivers' lives easier, start by making it easy to use.
Interface 101.
posted by cenoxo at 6:47 PM on October 10, 2007

Control panelophiles might also get a rise out of the aircraft instrumentation at U.S. Cockpits.
posted by cenoxo at 6:52 PM on October 10, 2007

Wow, this is great! Thank you.

I've always been obsessed with buttons and switches and so forth.

If I were ever able to get my shit together I think being a user interface designer would suit me. A pipe dream, really.
posted by marble at 8:19 PM on October 10, 2007

Thanks for the answer tepidmonkey. :)
posted by nickyskye at 8:47 PM on October 10, 2007

Industry! Science and Technology! Big men putting screwdrivers into things - turning them - and adjusting them!
posted by Rock Steady at 9:05 PM on October 10, 2007

A little playful sexism: female and male remote controls.
posted by nickyskye at 10:06 PM on October 10, 2007

This page really makes me want to go look around here and try to come up with some excuse to use them on some project.

I'm still trying to figure out exactly how to get overhead toggle switches into my truck
posted by flaterik at 1:12 AM on October 11, 2007

And here's some flickr groups with more.
posted by klausness at 4:17 AM on October 12, 2007

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