My First Digital Music Player

It came yesterday. A Sony NW-S203F Sports Walkman. It’s pretty nifty, though I’m having a difficult time imagining how much time people must spend getting songs on and off these things.

The good: The player is designed for exercise. It can adjust the music being played to your running/walking pace (there’s a pedometer in it), it can keep track of calories burned, distance gone, etc., and it came with a nifty armband holder to keep it out of the way. All that’s grand.

The bad: The instructions suck. No surprise there, really. Companies would do well to hire, say, an English major or two just to look over their instructions. And it took me about an hour to get the thing to stop saying “Memory Error” and let me do something. There’s a click ring for sealing the USB port, and if it isn’t in the right position, the player be dead — not a word of this is in the instructions or online manual.

The huh?: I enjoy visiting Sean Michael Ragan’s website every now and then. He has an ongoing interest in minimalist, low-impact living, as well as a great many other things to do with design. Of interest to me at this moment is his listing of “design gaffes”: power window buttons on a car door that don’t “map” naturally to function, cell phones that play a jingle when you mute them (and folks wonder why I hate cell phones and only own a “for-emergencies” pay as you go model), DVD menus that are difficult to navigate, incoherent instructions, edible legos, and that sort of thing.

This player, I daresay, falls into the same category. It has this nifty armband thing to strap the player to your left upperarm during exercising. I know it’s meant for my left arm because all the pictures have it thus, and the headphones are clearly designed to push the wire lead toward the left shoulder (the extension to the right ear is longer than that going to the left). All well and good, except that if you do put it on your left arm it is upside down from your perspective. The readout, the buttons, the logo… everything is upside down, best readable from the position of someone looking at the exerciser, rather than the exerciser him or herself.

Most folks I know are not quite so vain as to employ someone to run alongside them with a full-length mirror, so I can’t imagine what the designers were thinking. Odds are, they simply weren’t.

5 Comments

  1. What the designers were thinking is quite simple. They were thinking from an advertising perspective. You have the product, you know what it is, there really is no reason for you to see the logo or model info nor is it a concern for it to be logical to the wearer. However, as you are jogging along, someone might notice this nifty looking device attached to your arm and it might inspire them to look into/purchase the product. If it looks upside down/backwards to the outside world it is not going to be inspiring for others to purchase. Sony already got you to get one…the design is such as to inspire others to purchase one after seeing you wear it. Few people are going to think “huh I bet that is awkward for him to read” they are more likely to go “that is a cute little MP3 player and he seems quite happy, I think I’ll look into getting one” (or something a little less cheeze filled along those lines).

    Products are not always about the consumer so much as using the consumer as a marketing tool. If you can wear it, you are marketing it.

  2. I thought about that, Kate, and it does make sense to a point. But unlike an iPod (for instance), this player reads vertically rather than horizontally. The text typically reads like the spine on a book, in other words. So marketing perspective isn’t quite as much of an issue.

    In fact, our accustomization to horizontal text (on books, CDs, etc.) is that the text should typically read with the base of the text to the left. That’s how the player should read, but doesn’t. It would be more practical to the wearer and more proper to another set of eyes, too. (Try flipping one of your CDs 180 degrees on the shelf and you’ll see what I mean — it looks, well, wrong.)

  3. As far as the display being “backwards” it might have something to do with what country it was designed and manufactured in.

  4. hello i wanna ask question about the same device sony player nw-s203f i have this player from some months i wasnt using it n now when i want to use it it shows memory error…. n transfer option is not showing in my pc i dont know wat to do whts the problem why its showing memory error can u help me plzzz

  5. I have no idea what’s wrong with it, Sonia. I don’t use that device anymore.

    I do know that’s there’s something wrong with the “shift” key on your keyboard, however, and that might be worth fixing in the future.

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