Dear User Interface Designers: We don't hate you as much as you obviously hate us, but you're making it harder for us.
We have a universal-type remote for the DirecTV Tivo and the TV set. In principle it can maybe work the DVD too, but that would take effort to set up. Instead, it mostly sits in DirecTV Mode, from which it can turn the TV on and off and also switch it between DirecTV, Wii, and DVD player inputs. To watch the DVD today (The King Of Kong, if you're curious) I had to switch the remote over to TV-only mode because somehow the TV Mode channel had moved from Channel 3 over to Channel 5. Normal enough. And of course I forgot to change it back.
After exercising, I handed the remote to my mother, who couldn't get the DirecTV cable guide list because according to the on-screen buttons, that's a function only available in DirecTV Mode and the remote was not in DirecTV Mode. She hadn't been aware of my switching the mode out since, why would she be?
Let me run down that action again: The satellite receiver refused to let a button do the only thing that button could possibly do because the remote's mode selector was wrong. I can hear some user-interface weenie insisting that it was necessary because the remote's user might not be aware of what mode the controller was in, and might be confused if a button that had meaning in multiple modes --- such as the channel up/down buttons --- were pressed and the wrong thing happened. But that means the remote decided to induce confusion in order to head off the possibility of confusion.
The controller could easily have let the buttons that can only have one meaning have that meaning regardless of the main mode. Why can't we have the least surprising thing be the thing to expect?
Trivia: The second IBM Day, on the 13th of May, 1940, at the New York World's Fair cost a million dollars, more than ten percent of the company's profits for the year. Source: The Maverick And His Machine, Kevin Maney.
Currently Reading: Asimov on Numbers, Isaac Asimov. Which I've read many times before, of course, but I do have library privileges from the community college at which I'm teaching, and with the power to borrow a book and have it not due back until the semester is done I had to pick up something, didn't I?
PS: Or, Work It Out The Easy Way ... Trapezoid Week ends with a proof of the area formula so obvious I don't know why I bothered with any others.