User Input

User Input: Because We Can

Yesterday, I mentioned that my microwave has a touch screen. And thousands chanted, “tell us more!” (Well, OK, just dwegmull, but I’ll take an idea wherever I can get it.) Yes indeed, and pictured above is that very screen in all its (ahem) glory. Why does it need a touch screen? It doesn’t. But between that and the SALE sticker, they got my money for a new microwave that I didn’t necessarily need. What does it do that other (non-touchscreen) microwaves can’t? Well, for starters, you can touch an LCD screen when you want to command it to make leftover pizza achieve fissionable status.

More and more these days I see things having extra buttons, sounds, lights, and wifi added for no good reason. Most of the time, it just adds an extra layer of something that will break and turn your Taiwanese manufactured doo-hickey into another paperweight. This microwave is an example of something they didn’t need to do, but did it because they could, and I don’t hate it. (And no, it doesn’t have wifi; but a guy at work just bought an SD card that does – he can edit the photos while the card is still in the camera and his wife is still taking the pictures – that’s cool.)

What have you seen in the tech world that falls into the category of completely unnecessary but awesome?

[“User Input” is the AtomicToasters Question of the Day™ asking you, the teeming millions, to answer our pressing questions.]

  • dwegmull

    You're welcome. I can think of two awesome features that truly superfluous:

    My digital camera talks. It says things like "Camera mode", "PC connection mode" and "low battery power". The feature can be turned off, but why would I? I bought it after reading several positive online reviews including one that mentioned the talking feature in such way that I thought the reviewer was just using an hyperbole!

    My electric car has a GPS module for the sole purpose of remembering the charge settings (max current and timed start) for each location I charge from. Thanks to this feature I will trip the circuit breaker at each location only once

  • Ok, can anyone beat my toaster?

    My kitchen totally rocks a Tefal Avanti, I bought it for the Studebaker connotation as well as teh awesomeness.

    It is here: <img src=""&gt;

    See that orange illuminated LCD? That carries not just information pertaining to the level of toastiness you have selected, but also a countdown timer. Yes, you can stand and count down the seconds until your toast is ejected.

    But that's not all. Upon launching your heated bread skywards, the toaster also beeps to tell you that your toast is ready. This is on top of the monumental mechanical KER-CHUNK all toasters emit anyway. It's quite a machine, short only of being Atomic, it's kind of a big deal.

    • Anthony

      Cool, Where did you get it, and how much did it cost?

  • tonyola

    I used to think that the numeric keypad locks on various Ford models were useless gimmicks. Then once I accidentally locked the keys in a Taurus I was driving. Fortunately, I had the code, and that saved a lot of bother and expense. Awesome…
    <img src="; width=400>

    • P161911

      Every time I pas one of those with the door unlocked I'm really tempted to hit the last two buttons. Especially if it is somebody that I know who leaves their keys in the car.

      They were sort of useful before remote key fobs.

      • tiberiuswise

        They are great when you go to the beach, lake or waterpark and don't want to take your transponder equipped key with you.

        • Deartháir

          Also very useful around here. I can start my car in the -30 weather we've had lately, let it run for a few, and leave it all alone. The keypad lets me lock the door so my asshole co-workers can't get in and take my car for a drive around the block, and the car can sit running quite comfortably.

    • Since our F150 is our "weekend vehicle," I don't usually keep the keys for it with me. But it sits right outside, in the driveway. I can't count how many times I've used the keypad to unlock the truck, to hit the garage door remote, to get into the house, rather than walk all the way around to the front door, which is all the way around on the opposite side of the house.

      Sure, just mounting a garage door keypad on the house would remove a step from the process, but that would be less secure when we're gone to the lake (in the truck, of course).

      Speaking of which, a friend once gave me his garage door key code to get into his house in his absence. I pulled into the driveway, hit the code on the Stanley keypad, and the garage door across the street went up — I was at the wrong house. I guess any keypad in range will do the trick if you punch in the right code.

  • I never use the delete key on my keyboard. Completely superflowious. Oh goddammit!

  • P161911

    Washing machines and dryers are some of the worst culprits for this. Having gone through a couple of the fancy models with lots of buttons on circuit boards and few knobs, they aren't worth repairing. Sure you can get the model with all the bells and whistles cheap at the Sears Outlet but you will have to throw it out if it breaks. When a $400 circuit board goes out there is no point in repairing it. I try to stick with the models with knobs and relays now, when they do break they can be fixed. I don't need 8 different temperature setting to dry my laundry.

  • Number_Six

    Hammacher Schlemmer Perfect Martini Maker. It selects the correct amount of chill and can either shake or stir.
    <img src="; /> <a href="” target=”_blank”>

    • I think that product is the very definition of amazing. You could also use it to make, uh, hmm… BOTH Gin and Vodka Martinis.

    • tonyola

      Would this guy approve?
      <img src="; width=400>

      • Number_Six

        Yeah, but he'd rip the "Stir" button off before he plugged it in.

    • TechieInHell

      DENIED. While awesome all over, this device is FAR from superfluous. Where can I get one?

      Also, in the words of Jed Bartlett: A proper martini should be stirred, not shaken, with that little spoon so as not to bruise the ice which will water down the drink. James Bond is ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it.

  • <img src="; width="450">

    My microwave has two controls: (1) a TIMER dial and (2) a POWER LEVEL dial which, despite appearances, is actually just a switch with only two settings, LOW/DEF and HIGH. I consider this second dial to be completely unnecessary– I've certainly never used it, inasmuch as even on HIGH it takes 5.5 minutes to heat a cup of water for tea, so why would I want an even lower setting? I won't venture an opinion on whether it qualifies as "…but awesome" although I will note that I am quite happy with it.

    • I wholeheartedly approve of this, and its continued use.

      It makes me want to create a "LeMons Nuke-Off" cooking contest for junky vintage microwaves.

      • Oh, and the best feature of the not-completely-unnecessary TIMER control? After it unwinds itself all the way back to OFF it rings a bell. It does not emit an electronic chime in imitation of a bell; it strikes a genuine internally-mounted bell. Ding!

        • Deartháir

          I had an old Radiation King microwave like that one for years, and I genuinely miss it. It was a hellova good box, even if it did dim all the lights in my house every time I'd try and pop popcorn with it. Probably shortened the lifespan of every other electronic device in the building, but worked like a hot-damn.

          Okay, it didn't work very well at all, but it was stupidly easy to operate. On, off, and a timer. That's all I bloody need!

          • TechieInHell

            My house came with a Radiation King, sitting prominently in the (non-working) fume hood shelf that I ripped out in order to install the combination Microwave/Fume Hood/Touch Me featured in this article. I still have the Radiation King in the garage, and it still works. It makes a cameo in the Smashy Smashy 2005 video (Sorry Deartháir, you missed out on your chance to be in the sequel to the 15 second sensation "Smashy Smashy"). We used it to test the effects of microwaving light bulbs, grapes, aluminum foil, and lit wooden matches (which is VERY cool to see). Maybe I'll post a vid here.

          • Mr_Biggles

            Yes please on the video. I just want to see something called "Radiation King" in action. The name makes me giggle.

  • jjd241

    I could do without the light on various electronics (DVD, VCR etc) that tells me it is OFF. I know it's off. Now a light that is lit when it's on tells me it's on, no light…not on.

    • MrHowser

      I'd prefer that there be an option to turn off the power indicator light on my computer monitor. When I'm looking at the screen, I don't need the little light in the corner to tell me the monitor is on.

      • TechieInHell

        Welcome to Macintosh. They thought of that.