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Manifesto Against the Madness of Microwaves: Standardization Now!
Mar 2006

Manifesto Against the Madness of Microwaves: Standardization Now!

Microwave ovens have been an integral part of our existence as unrepentant consumers for 30 years now. Veritable emblem of instant gratification, they have played a leading role in the rise of Western obesity…but that’s a very different debate than today’s topic.

They’ve been a part of our lives for such a long time now that it’s surprising what a struggle it still is to use one. How is it that microwave manufacturers have yet to institute a standardized user interface for all microwave ovens on the planet? Wouldn’t that go a long way to eliminating unnecessary frustrations?

After all, who doesn’t have a story to tell about a frustrating microwaving experience? I myself have dozens. For the last 10 years I’ve given a series of conferences on cognitive ergonomics to second-year industrial design students at the Université de Montréal. I often use the example of our dear microwave when I speak of the relatively abstract concept of interface consistency; it’s the perfect counter-example! It strikes a chord in my students and invariably sparks a lively discussion on the inconsistency of microwave ovens and on the variety of buttons, control functions, methods of interaction and programming mechanisms.

These discussions inevitably end in the conclusion that one must constantly adapt oneself to each new microwave oven, and that this is unacceptable. Isn’t it annoying to have to ask yourself, “How am I going to make THIS one work?” every time you have to use a new oven? This is something that happens more often than you might think.
What if you had to go through this exercise every time you went to the bathroom, toasted some bread or unlocked a door?

But enough of my micro waved musings; I give you my Manifesto for the standardization of microwave oven interfaces:

  • We demand ovens that are easy to learn and use!
  • We demand an end to useless functions, which make the control panel confusing!
  • Above all, we demand standardization of door-opening mechanisms, displays and controls from one oven to another, across all brands!
  • If these changes are not made to our microwave ovens, we will abandon them in favour of… slow food!
Consider yourselves warned.
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