The curse of blue LED-s

July 03, 2008

Dear consumer electronics manufacturers:

can you please stop putting stupid annoying blue LED-s into every god damn product that you make?

Right now I have sitting on my desk:

All of them have a blue LED that keeps blinking when the thing is turned on. And I like to work in a darkened room and at nights. Which means that if I left all these things turned on, there would be a whole lot of blinking going on and it would be even more annoying than it is in daylight.

But being such a blink-antagonist, I have gone to great lengths to eliminate this blinking. Some stuff like the hard drive I can position strategically behind my laptop so that I don’t see the led. Some others like the USB hub I can turn upside down so that the LED is facing the table surface and not me. And so on. But I think this is stupid.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have built some electronics myself too. LED-s are really great… as debugging devices. When you test a circuit, it is really great to stick a LED there and observe little electrons merrily passing through and making the LED blink like there’s no tomorrow. It gives you this special warm fuzzy feeling. BUT: we’re talking consumer electronics here, not your goddamn first prototype, eh? These LED-s are maybe cool for some other kind of people who think that having blinking stuff all over the place is really cool and high-tech.

Well, I’m beyond that. I can tell if my stuff is working without the LED-s. For example, most of the devices that I listed above are often connected to this thing that is called THE COMPUTER and that these things called, you know, graphical interfaces that can tell the user anything you need to tell about the device. For example, the AT&T 3G card has a very nice coverage meter in software. I imagine if the seven coverage bars were instead seven blue LED-s on the device… and I close my eyes in horror. It’s too terrible of a thought. And I’m thankful it never happened.

Apple is one company who understands that blinking LED-s are annoying. They don’t have any blinking LED-s, especially not blue ones. Well, on their laptops in sleep mode they have this white LED that actually IS kind of annoying if you are in a dark hotel room and this thing is to your face on the desk… but it’s smooth and not blinking and not blue.

Now, there is one LED that I sometimes miss on my MBP: the hard disk activity one. Often, the computer just sits around and I’d like to know if it’s actually busy with the hard drive, loading up something, or did it just ignore my click. But again, I can get much richer feedback in the software, and out of the two evils (having a LED which is useful 10% of time and annoying 90%, vs having no LED and thus less information), I pick the lesser evil of having no LED and if I really need to have HDD activity info, I have all these wonderful programs smartly put inside the computer for exactly this purpose, that I can open and close at will, instead of having the LED to my face all the time.

So, again, dear manufacturers: please, no more blue LED-s, kthxbai? Ok, well, now I found this post. Maybe these LED-s are part of a conspiracy to keep us all awake. Sounds kinda neat, but no thanks.