Monday, November 28, 2005

The One About the Camera

This story is going to sound mean. In a way, I suppose it is, especially that I'm posting it for general consumption. But aside from being marginally funny, it also presents an interesting case study for interface designers. Here goes:

So this person borrows a digital camera from me so she can take photos of a special event. I readily agree and give her my ancient 1.3-Megapixel Olympus D-150. I show her how to work turn it on and where the shutter button is. It's a reasonably simple camera so I don't give much by way of additional explanation.

Much later, she gives me back the camera.

"Were you able to take pictures?" I asked.

"Yes, but the viewfinder doesn't work. It's too dark," she said.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't teach you how to turn on the LCD viewer," I said. "It drains the batteries quicker. But you could use the regular viewfinder...."

"Yes, I did! But it doesn't show me the whole view! It only shows the central portion."

"Huh? How can that be? Of course it takes the whole field of the shot."

I turn on the camera and bring it close to my face so I can put my eye to the viewfinder. "Works fine!"

"But I was holding it like this!" And she proceeds to demonstrate, holding it an arms-length away from her and squinting from that distance through the little viewfinder lens.

"What?! Haven't you used a camera before?"

"Oh, you didn't tell me to do that!" She sounded very miffed. "I was holding it the way you're supposed to hold digital cameras...."

I don't know guys. Has our conception of cameras changed so much in the last five years? Have people really forgotten how to use old-style cameras already? Or is it something else? Or am I just being mean?