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The Illusion Of Control: Buttons That Do Nothing

taras

Least Haunted
Joined
Oct 27, 2002
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This article in the New Yorker - about a man stuck in a lift for 41 hours, and other NY lift lore - is generally interesting, but contains this:

In most elevators, at least in any built or installed since the early nineties, the door-close button doesn’t work. It is there mainly to make you think it works … It’s a little like prayer. Elevator design is rooted in deception—to disguise not only the bare fact of the box hanging by ropes but also the tethering of tenants to a system over which they have no command.

I wonder how many other things don't actually have any function other than to trick us into a sense of control. I'm thinking pedestrian crossing buttons, for a start... :evil:
 
I've heard that graphic equalisers on cheap stereos are inoperative, sound-wise - they just make pretty patterns.
 
Peripart said:
Anecdotal evidence would suggest that the indicator switches on most BMWs and Volvos serve no purpose whatsoever.

Through my long experience of motorway driving, I can confirm this to be true. :x
 
I wonder how many other things don't actually have any function other than to trick us into a sense of control. I'm thinking pedestrian crossing buttons, for a start... :evil:

I've been told that this is the case in most large American cities - and from my own experience over there, it appears to be true. Here, however, they do work.

As for BMWs and Volvos (and can I add Holden Commodores please?), I used to have an inopertaive "Machine Gun" button on the dashboard of my Corolla years ago - it just blinked and made a gun noise when you pressed it - good way to get rid of that road rage! '8)
 
Yup, one of my vans had an 'Ejector Seat' button. I liked to think it connected to the front passenger seat, from where the then Mr Snail liked to comment on my driving skills. :twisted:
 
ttaarraass said:
This article in the New Yorker - about a man stuck in a lift for 41 hours, and other NY lift lore - is generally interesting, but contains this:

In most elevators, at least in any built or installed since the early nineties, the door-close button doesn’t work. It is there mainly to make you think it works … It’s a little like prayer. Elevator design is rooted in deception—to disguise not only the bare fact of the box hanging by ropes but also the tethering of tenants to a system over which they have no command.

I wonder how many other things don't actually have any function other than to trick us into a sense of control. I'm thinking pedestrian crossing buttons, for a start... :evil:

I think that the door close button does have a function. On most but not all lifts if you press for your floor and then immediatley press the door closed button they will go straight to your floor without stopping at floors in between. Try it it usually works!!
 
millomite said:
ttaarraass said:
This article in the New Yorker - about a man stuck in a lift for 41 hours, and other NY lift lore - is generally interesting, but contains this:

In most elevators, at least in any built or installed since the early nineties, the door-close button doesn’t work. It is there mainly to make you think it works … It’s a little like prayer. Elevator design is rooted in deception—to disguise not only the bare fact of the box hanging by ropes but also the tethering of tenants to a system over which they have no command.

I wonder how many other things don't actually have any function other than to trick us into a sense of control. I'm thinking pedestrian crossing buttons, for a start... :evil:

I think that the door close button does have a function. On most but not all lifts if you press for your floor and then immediatley press the door closed button they will go straight to your floor without stopping at floors in between. Try it it usually works!!

Greetings,

I have been an elevator mechanic for about 11yrs.
The door close button must work in order to pass inspection.
In the event of a fire alarm the system will go into "Fire fighters, phase one"
This will recall the elevator do a designated floor where the doors will open and the car will stay there until key switched into "F F phase two" which allows fire fighters to operate the elevator in a by hand fashion.

Independent, inspection and attendant functions also may require the door close feature.

Now this is not to say that there are not jobs out there where the DC button does not work but, when we install them everything on the COP (car operation panel) has to be functional.

PEACE!
=^..^=217
 
I doubt those dials on "advanced" radionics/orgone machines do anything. They're probably there to make the operator think he's adjusting them.

I doubt the machines work at all, except in the users mind.
 
I've just got a nice lilac Twinset, the cardigan has buttons, but no button holes as it's meant to be worn open. I guess there's all sorts of clothes with buttons that do nothing.
 
None of the buttons on any machine in a TV Sci-Fi programme work. The more enthusiastically they're twiddled, especially in disaster scenes, the less one suspends belief in their efficacy. A bit like my old Skoda Felicia, a baseline model on which only two of the bank of switches had any purpose. The rest were mute testament to its utilitarian status and the owner's poverty. Damn good car tho'.
 
Does anyone remember when portable FM radios used to have a switch on them labeled 'beat'? What the hell did that do? I have a vague idea that it was something to do with combating interference, but pressing it never seemed to make any difference at all.
 
Someone told me that the scientologists have been taken to court re: the fact that their electric testing machines don't actually do anything, so they have to display labels saying that.

From a book I'm reading:
In Kurt Vonnegut's the Sirens of Titan, human settlers on Mars are formed into vast armies to launch an extremely ill-judged invasion of Earth. The soldiers are loaded onto rockets possessed of only one control - an on/off switch. 'On' sends the ship on its pre-programmed trajectory. 'Off' does nothing. It is merely installed 'at the insistence of Martian mental-health experts, who said that human beings were always happier with machinery if they thought they could turn it off'
- Brian Appleyard - Aliens - why they are here.
 
Ah,, Colpepper, I recently got rid of my beloved Skoda Felicia. How my colleagues sniggered when they found out what I drove. How I sniggered when my car was the one to start first time after an exceptionally cold night. Deffo agree about them being good cars - uber reliable and I got 400+ miles from a full tank.
 
In the UK, I've certainly known of lifts/elevators where the "door close" button doesn't seem to do anything when it is pressed.
 
In the lift at my university, hardly any of the buttons work. It can be quite a thrilling ride.
 
The heat control setting on my toaster makes me a bit suspicious as well - where ever I put it the toast always comes out slightly burnt so I have to manually eject before it finishes.

In fact the phrase manually eject sounds like it comes from a sci fi movie - one with lots of machinery that has flashing lights and lots of buttons to twiddle that don't actually do anything - which brings me back to my toaster.

Joe
 
In the Good Old Days, when engineering smaller gigs where I was within easy reach of invariably pissed up punters, who would sometimes proffer their pearls of wisdom on where I was going wrong with the sound (after staring at the desk, swaying, with a pint in their hand, and slurring "Do you know what all those knobs do then?")

I could deal with this in one of two ways:

Engage in protracted shouted exchanges when I should have been paying attention to what was going on up onstage, generally ending up going in this direction -

"Hey, how would you like it if I came to your work and told you how to do your job? This is how I feed my family, I'm a professional, I don't need your help thank you. The guy on the left is pretending to sing, that's why you can't hear him. The management are happy, the band's happy, I'm happy. Now, fuck off."
or
"I'm a sound engineer, not Paul fucking Daniels, I can't make them sing in tune, I put shit in, I get louder shit out" etc etc.

OR

I could nod, smile and thank them for their valued input and rush to deal with the problem right away, namely adjusting the DFA Channels (Do Fuck All), which are routed with some signal in to light up the meters (in case some smartarse notices I'm adjusting an apparently dead channel) but not routed out anywhere.
"That better?"
(Thumbs up)
"Yeah, thought so, twat."
 
8) I like the cut of your jib, Sir. DFA button indeed. :lol:
 
back in the seventies when i was about 13 i had a pair of green flares(a la bay city rollers) with bloody big pockets all over em with about four buttons on each pocket that did bugger all except make me look a pr*ck.must have been about 20 of em. :D
 
Yup, I was talking to quite a posh woman recently and all I could think about was those little flaps that extended from inside her coat pockets and buttoned down on the outside. Totally pointless and crass. :lol:
 
Too drunk and tired to read thread in its entirety, but - has anyone mentioned Slavoj Zizek? The maverick bearded contemporary Slovenian philosopher writes of lifts, and the buttons inside them. Seemingly there to allow one to close the doors, but in reality having no practical function, serving merely to give lift users the illusion of some kind of control over their environment.

Zizek uses this as a metaphor for Western democracy, whereby the freedom to vote for one of two conservative free market political parties gives us the illusion of having some form of control or power over our lives.
 
Pedestrian crossings.

I have little doubt the button functions as normal in suburban and rural areas, but in busy city centres the changes of the traffic lights that govern pedestrian-traffic movement seem preordained, the button doing little more than lighting a WAIT sign.

Don't they use sensors to detect pedestrians yet?
 
Pedestrian crossings.

I have little doubt the button functions as normal in suburban and rural areas, but in busy city centres the changes of the traffic lights that govern pedestrian-traffic movement seem preordained, the button doing little more than lighting a WAIT sign.

Don't they use sensors to detect pedestrians yet?
Yes. In moderately heavy traffic areas you will often see markings in the road that contain coils of wire called induction loops. These notice changes in inductance ie when a vehicle is/isn't over the coils, thereby letting the lights know that they need to change to allow pedestrians to cross.
When you press the button, the coils will decide when it is safe to change the lights to red.

These are also often used when coming out from a side road, or say a retail park onto a heavily used road, where the traffic trying to exit the side road would never get chance to leave otherwise.


I would think that over your way pedestrian sensors are possibly used, but I haven't heard of them being used here. We're not that advanced.

tl.jpg
 
Underneath a kitchen sink is a false drawer front, because obviously there's no room for a drawer there due to the bowl of the sink.
When I was very young I asked my Gran why it wouldn't open and she told me that it was her secret drawer.
 
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