Useful dead tech part three
Potentiometers and Variable Capacitors
In the first installment, written over a decade ago, I bemoaned the loss of volume and tuning knobs on car radios, which had been stupidly replaced by buttons. By the second installment the knobs were back, although the knobs were digital, rather than analog.
A potentiomenter is a variable resistor with three leads. Usually the control lead is the center and can raise the voltage to a second lead while lowering it to the third. In analog systems they were used as volume, tone, and balance controls. In stereo systems there were two stacked together, one for each channel.
A variable capacitor was a capacitor where turning the knob one direction raised the capacitance, the other was lowered it. These were used for tuning radios, and UHF channels on early televisions.
Never once did I ever see one of these two devices fail. Old potentiometers suffered from getting dirty, which caused a crackling noise when turned, and often made the sound silent. However, this was easily remedied with switch oil, sold at Radio Shack as color TV tuner cleaner. It only took removing a few screws to access them for cleaning.
I drive a fifteen year old car, and the volume knob drives me nuts. Try to turn it up and the volume often goes down, or the reverse, or nothing at all. The digital tuner often jumps off the station. The old analog equipment never did that no matter how old it was.
There’s no reason whatever to use digital switches for volume knobs, because all sound is analog and all amplifiers are analog. Potentiometers would still work well, and you can still buy them, but I don’t think I’ve seen one on any new stereo in this century.
Why did they change? The mantra of youth, “new is always better!” Well, sometimes it is. Just as “reform” doesn’t mean “improve” but to change the form of something for better or worse, change can be better or worse.
Digital volume and tuning controls have no advantages at all over the older tech, and many disadvantages. Changing this was just stupid.
Packaging that doesn’t need tools to open
Back in the last century things generally came in thin cardboard boxes, simple things that were always easy to open and seldom needed tools, and the only needed tools for some were a knife or scissors. Now? They package things in hard plastic that sometimes breaks scissors!
And it’s terrible for the environment. Over half of all plastic on Earth was manufactured in this century! There’s absolutely no rational or logical reason to imprison a product in a stupid, very hard to open plastic package. It seems that with some items, they gave more thought to the looks (but not usability) of the packaging than the actual merchandise!
Stop making all that damned plastic and stop making it so damned hard to access everything I’ve bought!
Now, easily opened packaging isn’t completely dead; they still use paper wrappers and cardboard boxes for fast food. But anything else? “Honey, have you seen the jackhammer?”
Car windows you can open or close without the ignition in the operating position
Now, I love power windows. It’s great to be able to roll up all your windows from the driver’s seat without having to pull over and open each door to roll the windows up. It’s also nice to be able to keep passengers from rolling them up or down.
But why does the key have to be in the running position? I should be able to simply open the driver door and roll them up or down. When they’re rolled up and it’s hot outside, you certainly don’t want to put you upper body in that hundred fifty degree furnace!
There’s absolutely no reason why I should need a key to roll a window down.
This isn’t exactly on-topic, but when it starts raining, the windows should roll themselves up.
Glass soda bottles
Plastic bottles make sense for a lot of things; viscous substances like shampoo and condiments are far better served by squeezable bottles, especially ketchup, which was hard to get out of a full glass bottle. Milk and other assorted liquids are fine in plastic, as long as the container has a flat bottom.
But there is no good reason to put liquids, like soda or cooking oil, in plastic. Plastic is bad for the environment, particularly the oceans’ environments. The only reason it’s used is because it only takes a hundredth of a penny to make a glass bottle but a penny for a glass bottle.
That saving of .99% of a penny does in no way make up for the environmental damage of plastic, nor for the instability of soda bottles. Beer still comes in glass bottles, and you can set one on the hood of your car easily. Not soda, a soda bottle’s design (which makes it look like it holds more soda) is unstable unless on a perfectly flat, level surface.
But worse, plastic is pliable (or a plastic ketchup bottle would be useless), which means the soda will go flat much faster. That’s why they still use glass bottles for beer!
As for cooking oil, if it’s on your stove when the oven is on, it will melt.
Plastic soda and cooking oil bottles are not user-friendly, or environment friendly. Bring back glass!
Paper cups and straws
As mentioned above, plastic is bad for the environment. There used to be no plastic cups or straws; they were made of thin waxed cardboard, and I see no reason why plastic cups and straws should cost any less than paper.
They should bring back paper milk cartons, too.
They’re not dead yet, but it’s coming. Now, getting rid of bezels on TVs and monitors is a great innovation. The one on my new fifty five inch TV is only half an inch. But why do designers these days never look at how a device is going to be used? The bezel on my four inch phone is already too small, and I’ve read they’re so small on the new phones that they’re being called “bezel-less”.
It’s stupid! The bezel on a phone or tablet is necessary to keep from accidental clicks, which my phone gets all the time. My tablets, with generous bezels, never do.
Idiot designers, forget about cool, I don’t need to impress anyone with “innovation” that some stupid young hot shot came up with.
Getting rid of phone bezels is almost as dumb as touch screen controls in cars, the most idiotically dangerous “innovation” in decades. You shouldn’t have to take your eyes off the road to adjust the heater or turn up the radio!
Foot operated car dimmer switches
I don’t know what idiot in Japan... or was it Germany? Whatever, cars used to have foot switches to dim their headlights.
And then some moron decided to move the dimmer switch to the turn signal. I guess whoever made that decision never used his turn signals and figured he’s add a use to the “useless” turn signal.
But using your turn signal to turn or change lanes is the law in all fifty states (I don’t know about foreign countries). The problem occurs when you go to use the turn signal and blind some poor soul in an oncoming vehicle.
Someone please fire these morons before they kill more of us!