I'm always amazed at how often the user interface design of a machine seems to come last, and how even sometimes the entire functionality of the machine is compromised because cheap and/or poorly-performing parts were spec'ed in. The VTA light rail system in Silicon Valley is among the better systems with self-serve card-swipers and ticket kiosks, but I've occasionally encountered one that ate my dollar bills or refused to recognize my card.
In reality we can usually find that a design by big government will usually be minamilist and typically inferior. This comes from the designer having very little stake in the goodness of the design or in it's sitability for the particular application. In this particular case, high brightness LEDs do cost two to three times as much as the less bright ones that have a similar color and size. So it is natural for a cost optimization person to go with the cheaper product. Of course, looking at the photo of the terminal it is not clear as to where the LEDs are located. IT would appear that the primary goal was to make a system that was both cheap and vandel resistant, and that usability was someplace down on the list. That does happen.
My first guess is that the ones responsible for this product never use that means of transportation, and so they have no idea as to how well it does/ does not work. My second guess is that it was well designed but then purchasing got hold of it and substituted cheaper "equivalent" parts. The third guess is kickbacks to the buyer to accept junk.
Of course, disabling it completely would not be that hard. What you would need is a high-voltage spark ignition module such as used for gas refrigerators, a well insulated lead, and a nine volt battery. Drawing a half-inch spark to various parts ought to cause some interesting changes. Of course, it would be wise to not do this in tryhe middle of a crowd, but rather earlier in the morning.
I share your angst and frustration at poor design. One hates to characterize an organization based on a single observation but such a poor design does seem to be so characteristic of a product purchased by a large government entity.
Two thoughts struck me (pretty much my daily allocation, by the way):
#1 This type of design problem is really not limited to just large government entities but is also endemic in organizations where the end user/customer is isolated from the design/marketing folks. If you read the 'Monkey did it' blogs on this web site, you will see many other examples.
#1A However many of the similiar examples from the commercial world are one's that only pop up due a product getting old. Your example is one where the whole design is riddled with 'design insufficiencies' - ah, leave it to the government to score big on this one!
#2 My second thought (almost forgot it in the rush of the moment) is that it is so characteristic of an engineer to see the design inadequacies and want to do something about it!
OK, that's it for now. My brain is officially empty.
It's ridiculous that the screen isn't readable. I've been researching the market for 15+ years on the latest sun-light readable displays for my previous employer. I used to meet suppliers in the parking lot with an extension cord on sunny days. If I couldn't see the display, the discussion was over before they set foot inside. I had a cheap cell phone about 5 years ago or so - not a high function smart phone, just a little pay-as-you-go cheapy. Even this thing had a transflective disply that made it extremely readable in bright sunlight.
A slew of announcements about new materials and design concepts for transportation have come out of several trade shows focusing on plastics, aircraft interiors, heavy trucks, and automotive engineering. A few more announcements have come independent of any trade shows, maybe just because it's spring.
Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones used to fare quite well in the repairability department, but last year's flagship S5 model took a tumble, scoring a meh-inducing 5/10. Will the newly redesigned S6 lead us back into star-studded territory, or will we sink further into the depths of a repairability black hole?
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