A Suggestion to Designers

It can be fascinating to objectively study what or who has moulded your ideas and beliefs over the years. I know quite a bit of who I am originated with my father.

He was a employed as a visual inspector. Often he would quote specifications or standards he came across in construction or oil/gas industries. Whether it was a pressure vessel, a pipeline, or steel girder there was an obscure sequence of letters and numbers he would rattle off that identified some conglomeration of processes and requirements for fabrication/maintenance.

Case in point, if you are in Edmonton, think of my Dad every time you see the University of Alberta Hospital. I was very young at the time but I still recall the fascination I had as he poured over the building drawings identifying what he needed to inspect. Cool to see a building before a shovel of dirt was moved.

We spent six months in the Toronto area because of the hospital construction. His role was to inspect the steel trusses right after fabrication. He was ensuring that the trusses met a fabrication standard as laid out by an industry organization. If the truss didn’t meet spec it was repaired or rejected. These trusses were then shipped cross country to Edmonton. And that building is still standing almost 40 years later. I know that I am appreciative as this was the facility that had the MRI used to identify a mass and my first cancer diagnosis. Do you know some friend or relative who has been a patient of the hospital over the years?

However, one other aspect of parental moulding I recall is his response when he would have to do something with vehicles. Seems my Father’s keen and detailed senses would be rankled by automotive manufactures. Faced with a extremely hard-to-reach fastner and/or the need for a non-standard sized tool, my father would blurt out the suggestion that the designer or engineer in question should be “shot with balls of their own s##t!”

Silly that I would reach the same conclusion some years later…

My wife received a healthy work bonus some years ago. I still recall the conversation we had at a stop light. “What would you like to do with your bonus?”, was my observation to her. And off to the Apple store we went.

After a few years, her 27” iMac was starting to show a bit of age. The iMac had long since outlived the warranty and Apple-Care protection. Being the techno-nerd that I am, I started researching ways to bring a bit of life back into the machine.

The RAM had already been upgrade. However, the original 1TB green hard drive as well as the CPU were generating heat. The refurbishment plan began to take shape. Replace the hard drive, refresh the heat sink paste, and general internal cleaning. Easy-peasy, right? Famous last words…

Thanks to the folks at iFixit , I had multiple pictures of what was involved in the disassembly process. MacSales.com ( aka Other World Computing, OWC ) had the parts I needed to crack open the case as well as the much needed In-line Digital Thermal Sensor to interface any brand hard drive to iMac internals.

Once I had assembled all the necessary parts and tools, I carefully laid out my computer patient for surgery. I pulled off the cover and started to removed the monitor. And there it was - my I-have-become-my-father moment. The very same vulgar epitaph my father had used towards automotive engineers I was now using albeit directed at Apple engineers.

The iMac is a lovely design on the outside. Just don’t expect the same appealing aesthetics on the inside.

To remove fans, I had to almost entirely disassemble the internal components. Removing major components meant getting some other major component out of the case. The insides were very much not AT-PC standard. The best analogy I can come up with is removing the brain and heart in order to gain access to the GI track and lungs. All of these components were held together with tiny Torx screws fastened to posts in the case or plastic framing.

Then there are the interconnections. It was almost as if Doctor Frankenstein designed a laptop. To remove the monitor, one has to disconnect ribbon cables leading to the video card and motherboard, as well as power supply cables. All of this is necessary as the monitor covers all other internal components. The motherboard is entirely different story with its numerous tiny plug connectors of various sizes and orientations. Please believe me when I say that fat and/or stubby fingers need not apply.

Someone in the studio audience will try to point out that Apple makes clear that there are no consumer replaceable parts in an iMac. That’s nice. I am fairly confident that there is at least ONE Apple-trained technician out there who has the same or similar dim view about the iMac internal design and its repair/maintenance as I do.

For the record, post-op observations indicated that surgery was successful. My computer patient made a full recovery. Heat is greatly reduced and the 2TB, 7200 RPM, hard drive has improved the situation both with space availability and system responsiveness.

To all you designers, practising engineers or otherwise, know that without exception someone, somewhere, at some point in the future, will have their virtual or physical hands in the very bowels of the fruition of your inspiration. Whether it is a software program/library, or some other physical entity, I would suggest that the last thing you, the designer, would want to hear is another person thinking harshly of you. I don’t believe you would want to know of suggestions that you be pummelled with high-velocity, spherical projectiles of your own excrement, or words to that affect. Just a suggestion.