Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Error message of the week

The more I pay attention to ATMs, the more I am suprised at how tenuously the software is aware of the hardware. Entirely aside from the odd physical design (e.g. all the slots look the same) the software is often unaware what you have done, what peripheral hardware has done, or when its obviously broken. The other week, when depositing into one of those new-fangled ones the reader kept spitting my check out. Apparently, something made the reader unhappy. But, it never told the actual software that runs the ATM. So the GUI kept asking if I wanted more time. The sign above is similarly dumb. The cash acceptor device should probably be able to say its not working. But if not, why can't someone remotely load a message to the idle screen (and remove the ability to select "deposit cash" from the options menu) instead of forcing the branch to tape a hand-written note to the machine? It probably looks like I am picking on ATMs. And I guess I am a little. But I think they deserve it for being very common devices (economies of scale should negate "its too expensive" arguments), used by everyone (so the usability bar should be low) and with inherent trust and security issues. But mostly, I pick on them becuase their faults are nicely symbolic of the faults of many other systems.

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