Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Good design and good technology

I'm a generally old dude and in my lifespan I've seen a lot of change in technology... maybe not as much as my parents but it's still pretty impressive. Compare 4 VHF channels with an audio signal remote control to 500 channels of Satellite TV via an integrated Tivo (DirecTivo).

Tivo is a great example of a technology so well placed and well designed that once you have it, you can't imagine life without it. The MrsSquidgeyFlint thought I was buying some techy gadget / stereo equipment kind of thing. It didn't take her long to become so comfortable with the concept that she couldn't imagine life without it -- like when we'd go visit her parents in CT.

Tivo's greatness hits on two fronts:
  1. It's such a simple and obvious idea that you can't believe you didn't think of it.
  2. The interface design was easy enough to figure out and remember.

While bungling either of these elements can sink an idea, I'd say that if you can only have one, you need the first option - the simple, obvious idea. "What if you could record TV without having to mess around with tapes. What if you didn't have to worry about what time your show was coming on? What if you could pause live TV. What if you could rewind to hear that last little bit again?

You could already do most of this with a VCR except that it was a lot of work... and hard to do. And then you had to mess around with all those tapes... and you had to get the times right. And then you had to swap tapes to make sure you didn't record over shows you hadn't watched yet. Tivo took that all and made it super easy to do with a simple set-top box, virtually no setup, no maintenance.

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