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About touchscreens

This is your future speaking. If you’re lucky, you will grow old. When you get there, your skin will be drier. I’ve had Death-Valley-Desert-dry skin my whole life, and it only gets more so.

Guess how touchscreens react to very dry skin?

They don’t.

It can take me three or four swipes or taps on a phone, after breathing on my fingers to make them moister, before anything happens. By then, because I’m frustrated, it’s usually the wrong thing.

So, what am I saying? That touchscreens don’t work for a whole large part of the population. A part which is getting bigger, not smaller.

Now picture that kind of not-working in a car. You’re driving. The last thing you want to do is study a screen with stupid icons on it. And when it doesn’t turn on the A/C or close the windows, you have to study it again. When you look up, the two tons of metal you’re in are bearing down on a lane closure sign that the car is ignoring because, hey, it’s not moving. (I know. They’ll fix that someday. But then we’ll just move on to the next AI idiocy.)

That doesn’t even get into the topic of tactile feedback and muscle memory and how necessary they are to maintain situational awareness when driving. All those levers and buttons and knobs and steering wheel and pedals allow you to use a different part of your brain for control of the car so that your eyes and ears and frontal cortex are available for the unexpected. It’s called human factors engineering. The electric car makers ought to try it sometime.

Right now I have an old car. So old, you open the windows with one of those little hand cranks. My relationship with my phone is bad enough that I’ve often thought I should give up and get myself a cocktail sausage to use as a stylus. Then I imagine trying to run a car with a cocktail sausage.

Koreans wearing gloves in winter, using sausages on their phones.
8 Comments (Open | Close)

8 Comments To "About touchscreens"

#1 Comment By Earlynerd On 22 May, 2021 @ 02:33

Old keyboardist here. Mouse hater, touchscreen loather.

Much as I respect the non-USAian rest of the world’s techo-prowess, I am so there with you on this.

Costco sells *gloves* that accommodate this bug. Geeks want it not to have happened in the first place.

#2 Comment By Earlynerd On 22 May, 2021 @ 02:37

Also, just bought the first non manual tranny vehicle I’ve ever owned in my life. Under duress. No decent manuals available.

#3 Comment By Earlynerd On 22 May, 2021 @ 11:40

[Edited to add]


#4 Comment By quixote On 22 May, 2021 @ 13:43

Yeah. Touchscreen gloves. Another thing to buy, with money, and make sure you never misplace. Bah, humbug.

Seriously. It’s up to the manufacturers to make usable tactile controls. It’s not up to us, who’ve already paid them megabucks for their product, to pay more bucks to compensate for gumball design choices.

#5 Comment By NW Luna On 22 Nov, 2021 @ 21:36

“All those levers and buttons and knobs and steering wheel and pedals allow you to use a different part of your brain for control”

^This.^ Not to mention the blasted touchscreen displays can barely be seen in bright light.

#6 Comment By quixote On 25 Nov, 2021 @ 11:08

Good point about not being able to see the damn things if conditions aren’t right. Too true. But, of course, the sun setting behind the car and washing out all the displays never happens. :eyeroll:

#7 Comment By Earlynerd On 03 Jul, 2022 @ 01:49

Update from over a year later:

Thanks to you and SCIENCE! I was able to diagnose a problem our local bank was having.

They’d switched their drive-through ATMs from having buttons for screen choices to touchscreens.

They’d worked fine for me this past winter, but guess what? When the air temperature heated up, the ATMs began failing for an inexplicable number of transactions. They said they had the technicians out every other day.

After exhausting my marine-adjacent vocabulary on some critical failed transactions, it occurred to me that the difference between working and not working was air temperature vs. body heat. I called that in.

No telling whether they took it into account or it’s just the very welcome delayed summer here in coastal Oregon that took temperatures back down to early spring, but things are working fine now.

Yay, Science!

#8 Comment By quixote On 18 Aug, 2022 @ 23:48

i don’t know why they don’t just put me on retainer to tell them what will happen with their bright new ideas.

[1]. Published 2022-08-17. Actual research on actual drivers using buttons versus screens. Buttons are much easier, don’t require looking down (read: safer), and take about one third — one third — the time to operate.

I knew that (said in the best Car Talk voice). Everybody knew that. Read the comment thread on h ttps://arstechnica.com/cars/2022/08/yes-touchscreens-really-are-worse-than-buttons-in-cars-study-finds/ (link inoperable so I don’t bump into 2 link limit…. Will edit eventually….)