is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Vice President of User Experience at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. You can reach him through one of the services below.+
Like many people reading this, I have a broadband connection in my home that manifests itself as a router — a vaguely futuristic, plastic box attached to a cable that runs into my wall. To that router, I’ve attached an Apple AirPort Extreme, a VOIP router and a switch for additional Ethernet connections. It’s a bit of a mess, and it could probably be simplified, but for the most part it works fine.
I make whatever minor adjustments are needed to these devices through software; either browser-based interfaces or Apple’s own AirPort utility. In fact, the only time I ever have to physically touch the whole setup is on the rare occasion when something goes wrong with the cable connection itself. Admittedly, in recent months that’s been more often than I’d like with my current Internet provider, but for the most part it happens rarely.
One True Purpose
When it does happen, the only thing I do is power the devices down and then power them back up. That’s it. Unplug them. Wait thirty seconds or so. Plug them back in.
So it completely bewilders me why these devices universally place their power supplies in the back. For each of them, and for every such device I’ve ever owned and used, the only way to power cycle them is to reach around to their back — where I can’t even see the connections — and find the power supply cable. And, of course, some device’s power connections are on the right and some are on the left and I can never remember which is which. Once I’ve unplugged them, I wait a half a minute or so, and then I have to blindly try to re-connect the power cable to its corresponding port — again, without the benefit of seeing the back side.
Are there devices out there that acknowledge this real world use case? It seems to me that it’s a simple enough problem to solve, but more importantly it’s the main problem to solve. The only real purpose driving the design of this hardware at all would be the ability to easily power them on and off. It’s just illogical to me that so many designers could misunderstand this.+