On the UX of Microwave Ovens

2 minute read

Who the hell decided on four? Why four beeps? That tinny, high-pitched electronic squeak that grates on the nerves like the gravel tearing at your knee that time you came off your bike. Two beeps would have been plenty. Hell, one would be enough. What does it take for the microwave to say, “I’m done. Your food is hot”. Hottish anyway. Hot around the edges but never in the middle. Actually you don’t really need any beeping noises at all — the machinery inside the thing, the fan, the motor that drives the turntable, the synchrotron’s whirl, all those come to a stop. You’d think that might be some kind of a hint that the machine is done. But no. Four beeps.

What kind of a sick mind comes in to the electronics design team one morning and says, “You know, boys, let’s make the machine beep four times when the timer runs down. Shut off all the machinery and beep four times.” Somebody had to take that decision. Somebody made that a conscious choice.

And then another beep when you open the door.

“Door’s open, dude. Door’s open!”

I mean, it’s not like the door opened automatically, all by itself. (Though why not, come to think of it?) You had to go and press some dirty great spring loaded button to cause the door to open. Not something you’re likely to miss, is it?

It’s almost like the Engineering Manager took a look at the microwave-oven minimum-parts-count design of the week and said to himself, “Well, we have to have this beeper circuit in the thing to signify when the buttons get pressed, so let’s get some real use outa the thing. Let’s use it to hell. Four beeps! And when the fucking door opens, why not?”

Clearly a person with insufficient to occupy their attention. Clear sign of a mind degenerating into slush under the sheer boredom of week-in-week-out consumer appliance design.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The world could be a better place, a nicer place than a world of four beeps.