No one needs 45 buttons on the TV remote, but phones, computers and ovens have all become overly complicated. And it’s excluding the people who would get the most out of the latest advances
About 10 years ago, I moved into a fancy flat. I was looking forward to my dad coming to stay for the first time. He arrived at lunchtime, before I went off to present The One Show. He is really into music, so I enjoyed showing him the audio system, which could play more or less every radio station in the world and just about every piece of music ever made. I could even summon up a specialist jazz station in Los Angeles. Then there was the lighting, which could be selected to come on in different places at selected levels. Finally, there was the television and associated apparatus which, for convenience, could be operated by a single remote control sporting a little touchscreen. With a cheery wave, I bade him farewell, encouraging him to relax and enjoy himself.
It was eight o’clock and night had fallen by the time I returned. The place was quiet and in darkness. I was terrified, frankly, that he had expired. Then I heard a tiny, tinny sound emanating from the big, open-plan living room. “Dad?” I switched on the light, selecting the brightest of the five available options, and there he was, sitting alone in the middle of the too-big sofa that could comfortably have seated 20 of him. On the coffee table in front of him was the small, battery-operated wireless he carried with him everywhere. On the television, an error message flitted around the screen. In his hand was a glass of wine. He looked resigned, but not unhappy. “I tried,” he said, “but got nowhere with anything, so just gave up.”