I Rant, You Listen: What the PC Industry Can Learn From Slick, Simple Gadget Design

Maximum PC Staff

In my job as a tech journalist, I eat, breathe, and evangelize all things PC. I’m one of the PC platform’s biggest supporters because, frankly, it’s superior to the alternatives. Got that? We’re better than you.

But that doesn’t mean I think the PC is perfect. In fact, if there’s one thing the PC industry can learn from the larger consumer electronics industry, it’s that simple, logical interface design—in both software and hardware—should always be a product requirement. Likewise, pointless, obsolete technologies should be consigned to the scrap heap of history.

So, in the interest of making what I love even better, I’m going to pull out my list of things that have been pissing me off about the PC for years.

Power Bricks: You know how you’re not allowed to dig into city streets without first checking to see if you’re going to hit a gas main and ignite a strip mall on fire? All power bricks should, at the very minimum, be labeled with the equipment that they came with. If it’s a Samsung notebook, the brick should be labeled Samsung, along with its host device’s model number. Even better, each brick should be registered in a central database that could be searched to see what equipment it came with, and what it will work with.

USB ports: Engineers are some of the most brilliant people on the planet, but who in hell designed the USB port using a rectangular socket and plug? The design should ensure that your chances of properly inserting a cable into an out-of-view USB port are 50/50, but it never works that way. First you try to plug that cable in one way. It doesn’t fit, so you flip it around and try again. That doesn’t work either, so you flip it around again, and try the first way. Finally, you just give up and drag your damned PC into the open to plug the cable in. So, PC industry, listen up: Design USB 4.0 plugs and ports to include some kind of mechanical guide so you can plug in cables without looking.

Legacy buttons: We have too many have legacy buttons on the keyboard—you know, like almost all of the function keys and that damned Scroll Lock button. If I broke into your home tonight and pried off F5 through F8, would you even care? It would probably be three months before you even noticed that the buttons were gone and instead became filled with debris from Doritos and Sabor de Soledad chips.

I propose that we first remove buttons F5 through F8 entirely. We’d then nix the Scroll Lock button, and assign its functionality—whatever the hell it is—to some currently unused Ctrl or Alt key combo.

Here’s where it gets even better: In place of all these riffraff keys, we add a single, dedicated BIOS button. Pushing this button during bootup would immediately put you into the BIOS, eliminating all that frantic button-pounding that makes you feel like you’re playing Konami Track & Field.

And while we’re already talking about the keyboard, let’s also have a button that locks out keyboard input (with an LED indicator of course.) This would allow you to lay your Subway sandwich on the keys during lunch while you mouse your way through Internet pages.

You couldn’t do that on a tablet, could you? I guess the PC will always be the most powerful platform for hardcore applications.

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