An oven that is hard to use

February 20, 2006

I have this thing about not getting along with home appliances that have ridiculous complex interfaces. It used to be only about the microwave. But now, I came across a real oven that I couldn’t use.

Ovens should be easy, yes? You put the thing to cook in it, set the power/temperature, and maybe timer, and you’re done with it? This is how it used to be in the old days. Now you also have settings like whether to cook only from top, from bottom, from both, or maybe grill? If it’s limited to this, sure enough, I can manage. But wait, there’s more! This is an actual cooker I had to stay with for a while.

It starts off innocently. Nobody can misread the power settings, right? Although it’s beyond me why you need five buttons here where a simple turn knob would have sufficed.

First, it deserves to be mentioned that I didn’t have the manual to this thing, neither had I any clue as to how to get the manual. So I had to resort to the icons and on-display info. Always assume that whoever uses your thing does NOT have the manual.

So, next to these power buttons were these controls.

So there were two displays and two turn knobs beneath them. The display on the left read time or timer, depending on how you set it, and the one on the right could read various things. You could both turn and push both knobs and various things then happened on the display. But mostly nothing happened – you had to use the knobs in connection with these…

Now this was the button bar to the right on the interface. Can you make sense of the icons? The only ones making sense here to me were “stop” and “start”. And the clock should have something to do with the timer, but I never figured it out.

The leftmost one with the up and down arrows is especially interesting. You’d think it has something to do with how the cooking happens – top or bottom – right? Wrong. What it actually did is it operated in connection with the right LCD panel and the turn knob beneath it. There were two rows of texts (say various presets) on the LCD. The up/down button toggled which one you’re currently playing with, and then you could change the actual setting with turning the turn knob. It sounds silly, and it was.

So this is the text display. In this case, it reads “Pizza, pre-cooked, thin base, deep frozen” (sorry about the picture quality). Cool! Turns out the oven has pre-sets. How do you get to the pre-sets from the buttons? I have absolutely no idea. I just jammed them randomly until this appeared. And since by luck this was exactly the item I had to cook, I didn’t touch anything any more and hit Start and it cooked it. Sort of. Not well, really, I had to do it several times to get anything useful done.

The problem here was that it was not obvious how to switch between the “preset” and “manual” settings. The only thing I figured out was that if you were in the preset view (no idea how I got there), you could change presets with the up/down button and turn knob.

So there. I felt quite helpless with this marvel of technology and couldn’t really cook anything in the oven. Not that I’m that good of a cook anyway, but if you’re having enough trouble with the recipes and spices and things anyway, you shouldn’t really have to fight with oven controls, is my humble opinion.