Saturday, October 22, 2011


Ever since I heard that Woody Allen had been chastised by a talking elevator, I have tried to be on good terms with machines. What frustrates me, though, is how quickly I reach the perimeter where enlightenment stops and ignorance begins. I have, for example, a microwave oven in which I can easily cook frozen meals or reheat a cold cup of coffee, but when I look at the fascia with its array of symbols, I realise that this machine can do far more than I ever ask of it. Similarly, I can use my fan-assisted oven to burn a pizza with the best of them, but I have no idea how to use the timer, mainly because all the instructions are given in icons.
Anyway, the reason for this belated grump (yes, it is a grump and we are just coming to the grump's nub) is that I bought a beautiful shirt recently and decided that it would be unfair to launder it in the usual manner, viz, on the mini programme along with oily rags, bedsocks, furlined jockstraps and the like. So I read the label on the shirt that bears the washing instructions. More bloody icons! I ask you, how intuitive is the meaning of each symbol in the following chart:
It's hard enough to understand machines as it is without baffling us with all this semiotic guff. Frankly, I'd rather have something in Hungarian or Fulani than a triangle with a dot in it to tell me that  I should put the shirt on a preheated baking tray before cooking it in the washing machine.

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