Tuesday, July 15, 2008

*#!% Blinking Lights

Why should a light blink? To get your attention. Flashing signs, countdown timers, warning signs, answering machines with unanswered messages.

So why are there so damned many lights that blink when they're working just right?

My most hated is the Verizon Broadband Access card, which sticks out of my laptop at a bad angle to begin with, and then has to have a bright flash of light every couple of seconds. Extremely distracting, and redundant: If it stopped working, there are a couple of indicators on my laptop which would tell me already. And if my laptop isn't open, I don't care. I've taken to taping over the thing, but I need more opaque tape.

My Dell Lattitude D830 blinks sometimes when it's charging. Like I care. I plugged it in after having it untethered because I want it to charge. Turn the light on steady and stay that way.

The last hotel I was at in Boston was full of blinkies: the fire alarm blinks brightly once every couple of seconds (again, why?), the LG flat panel TV had a red LED that blinked half the night, and the telphone would occasionally blink the Line 1 light for no apparent reason (no, I didn't have a message).

It's just LEDs, you say, what's the big deal? Well, I'm profoundly nearsighted, and with my contacts out, a single LED blows up to the size of a dinner plate at arm's length, and if my eyes are open at all, it's distracting from falling asleep.

If you've got to have an indicator light, leave it on! Make it dim if you have to save power, or get rid of it all together (Kudos to DirecTV's otherwise mediocre HR21 in that it has no "standby" light. I know it's always on, in order to record things, thank you for having it go dark when I tell it to). Blink when there's a problem.

Here's another stupid blinker in my living room: A 2-line answering machine. It's got a big LED button on the left and right to tell me there are messages on each line, and a couple-digit display that alternates "L1 0 L2 0" all day and night. Does the blinking mean something? No, just that it can't tell me everything it wants to tell me at once.

Bored with this subject. Back to work.

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