“You cannot NOT have a user experience”*…
Q: I’ve heard people use UI and UX interchangeably. I thought I knew the difference, but now I’m confused. Can you please clarify this once and for all?
Of course I can. And I can do it using the Presto Hot Dogger. Obviously.
When I was a kid, my brothers and I talked my mom into buying us a hot dog cooking machine. Don’t laugh. This was the 70s, when instant coffee was considered a miracle. The way the Hot Dogger worked was simple. There was a tray with two rows of spikes on either side that slid into a heating element. You impaled the hot dog into the corresponding spike on each side, completing the electrical circuit, and this “cooked” the hot dog. Cooking is a strong word here, as the hot dogs were actually being electrocuted. (Hot dogs contain an insane amount of metal, by the way.) We were thrilled to make our hot dogs this way.
So, what I just described — the spikes, the heating element, the electrocuting — that’s the user interface. Or UI, for short. And I’m sure that the good folks at Presto tested that user interface many times over until they had it just right. I’m sure they tested the proper width of the tray to fit the majority of hot dogs and wieners being made in the USA at the time. I’m sure they tested the force needed to close the tray, maybe even with a robot arm! They probably even tested the visibility of the smoky transparent plastic that allowed you to see your hot dogs being electrocuted, and how much of it you’d want to see.
Now here’s the thing. When you give three boys an appliance that electrocutes meat in an era before their boredom could be diffused with video games and cable, it immediately becomes the most interesting thing in the house. And they start wanting to have experiences. The hunger to electrocute things far outlasted the hunger for hot dogs. And it wasn’t long before we started looking for other things that fit in the Hot Dogger™.
Here’s an incomplete list of items we tried:
- bananas (not enough metal)
- chicken drumsticks (worked, albeit slowly)
- Steak-umm (turned to liquid)
- forks (sparks, small fire)
- a condom we found on the street (the smell lasted for weeks)
- aluminum foil (yep. Aluminum bridges solved our Steak-umm problem. )
We were having user experiences…
Learn more (including why trash bins are exactly 25 feet from hot dog stands at Disneyland) from Mike Monteiro, Design Director at Mule Design, in “How 70s appliances can explain the difference between UX and UI.”
As we put our appliances through their paces, we might spare a thought for an inventor and designer of an earlier period, Garrett Morgan; he died on this date in 1963. He patented a traffic signal (which he sold to GE for commercial exploitation). He also developed (among many other inventions) the gas mask, which he used to rescue miners who were trapped underground in a noxious mine in 1914– though soon after, he was asked to produce gas masks for the US Army. It was based in part on his 1912 creation, a safety hood and smoke protector for firefighters.