Monday, August 09, 2010

How should a device warn you that its batteries are getting low?

In 1969 I worked at a company that developed both hardware and software, and for the first time, I met [i]hardware people[/i]. I remember one of their fancies: to imagine a machine that would warn you it was not plugged in, by lighting an emergency light.

How should a device warn you when its batteries are low? Our wireless doorbell uses as bizarre a strategy as I can imagine. A few months ago, the doorbell rang. Our device uses the "Big Ben" tones, which take a few seconds to play. There's no mistaking them. I rushed to the front door, but nobody was there. A day or two later, the same thing happened. When it happened five times in one day -- gee, all those false alarms -- I figured it was time to throw the darn thing away, but first, I might as well try changing the batteries. And that solved the problem.

Why am I writing about this now? There was nobody at the front door this morning...
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