Above please find criticism of the "Nintendo Children's Toy" from The Design of Everyday Things, a treatise by former Apple engineer Don Norman on how everyday objects derive their shapes and the principles of user-friendly design. Unfortunately, my library copy is not the 2013 updated version - it instead dates from 1990, meaning that much of the book is taken up with discourse on those pesky office telephone hold systems and your impossible-to-program VCR.

The author is obsessed with the idea that kids were going to yank out cartridges without turning off the power first and fry the system, arguing that the console needed a "forcing function" preventing cartridges from being removed before the power was turned off. I'm sure some kids did this, and this StackExchange post claims that it can damage the system under very specific circumstances, but I don't recall this ever being a widespread issue, and I've never heard anyone online claim their NES was bricked by taking out the cartridge early. (Finding stories of bricked NESes is quite difficult, actually.)

I wonder: was this genuinely not a problem, or was the author overlooking other aspects of the design that discourage cartridge-ripping due to his unfamiliarity with the system? For one, given the expense of games at the time and how you learned to give practically any title you were bought or rented a chance, switching between games in the NES era during a play session was a relatively infrequent thing, not the fast cycling Apple Man thought. The door on top of the cartridge slot and having to push down on the cartridge to release it and take it out also slowed down the process of switching carts, discouraging quick changes. Plus, every NES kid came to know from experience that the contact between the cartridge and the NES was touchy, meaning that you had to be a little patient with taking cartridges in & out - lest your precious saved game be erased! Then there's the "hold RESET while you turn POWER off" business, plus often having to seat a cartridge a few times before that blue screen disappeared...and the legendary durability of Nintendo hardware.

I still wonder, though: did the Famicom have this problem, given its top-down design? Was the NES redesigned in part to address this potential issue? I know the NES was primarily fashioned to mimic a VCR and avoid at-the-time toxic associations with video game consoles - but was it a factor?

The book is not as illuminating as I hoped, concerning itself with a vague set of principles for usable design rather than more incisive case studies. Norman also argued me out of his "usability as king" philosophy, at least under his definition of the word, as it frequently ends up catering to the least aware users possible. Now I know who to blame for power buttons that never actually turn things off anymore.

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