The Simple, and the Simply Awful

A pantheon of technology products that marry great performance with simplicity of design–and those that miss the mark.


Products we love . . .

TiVo, by TiVo. It’s not often that owners refer to their pet technology as “life changing,” but the ability to watch 24 at 3 a.m. surely counts as one of the decade’s greatest humanitarian breakthroughs. The remote, the intuitive menus, the crisp instructions–everything about it can make even your parents feel smart.


iPod, by Apple. You don’t have to be a hipster to love iPod, which plays Henry Mancini as easily as it blasts Cannibal Corpse.

Skype’s Voice-over-Internet service. Cheap long distance? Without having to deal with the phone company? What’s not to love?

Google’s search engine. So good it’s a verb. The real question is, How did we find anything in the pre-Google era?

BlackBerry by RIM. Love ’em or hate ’em, their ubiquity speaks for itself. Sure beats lugging around an eight-pound laptop just to get email.

. . . and love to hate

Universal remote. So many buttons, so little time–and more complicated than the flight deck of the starship Enterprise. If you’re an engineering prof (or a 14-year-old), it’s heaven on earth. For the rest of us, it’s easier to haul our weary bodies out of the La-Z-Boy than to figure out how to turn off the TV with this thing.


PeopleSoft software. The product most likely to induce a bout of Tourette’s syndrome in the office.

LG VX6100 cell phone. Why is it so hard to make it shut up? Finding the mute button requires digging through the innards of the user’s manual.

HP Officejet 7110 printer. It does it all–printing, scanning, copying, faxing–and does it all badly.

Sony Synthesized Radio. One aggravated owner complained, “It’s impossible to program. You can’t get the clock to stop blinking . . . and the antenna is useless.” But it looks cool.

About the author

Linda Tischler writes about the intersection of design and business for Fast Company.