Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
11/30/2006
04:37 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
Commentary
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Lovin' An Elevator -- Or Not

New elevators in skyscrapers with multiple banks of lifts don't have buttons inside them -- instead, you punch in your destination while you're calling the elevator, and the controlling computer directs people to cars that are going to floors that are close to each other.

New elevators in skyscrapers with multiple banks of lifts don't have buttons inside them -- instead, you punch in your destination while you're calling the elevator, and the controlling computer directs people to cars that are going to floors that are close to each other.

Many elevator riders are finding it hard to adjust to the new technology. Just as riders in the 1950s complained at first about the disappearance of human elevator operators, some riders today are uncomfortable ceding control of their ride to a computer. First-timers are the most confused, often hopping into an open elevator and then realizing as the doors shut in front of them that there are no buttons to press.

In a New Yorker interview, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch complained about them. "Somebody put these new elevators in, and nobody knows how to use them," Mr. Murdoch said.

Tom Tullis, a professor who studies the "usability" of technology at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., was so appalled by his encounter with a destination elevator in Boston that he gave a presentation to a usability conference that he titled, "You shouldn't have to read a user manual to ride an elevator!"

But the modern world's relentless desire for speed is trumping the objections. Schindler Group says its elevators can reduce the time of the average journey by about 30%. Grouping riders by floor limits the number of stops each elevator needs to make and thus makes more elevators available at any given moment.

One big drawback to the "Wonkavators" (as they're known to one employee in a building with the new elevators) is that you can't change your mind once you're on the elevator. Once the doors close, you're committed.

Also, people get used to the new elevators and forget how to use the conventional kind:

"My problem has become that I keep forgetting to press buttons in the elevator in my apartment building, so as I tap-tap-tap on my BlackBerry, I realize minutes later that the elevator hasn't moved," says Atoosa Rubenstein, the departing editor in chief of Hearst's Seventeen magazine.

There's about 3,000 of the "destination elevators" installed worldwide, including 600 in the U.S. In Manhattan, they're in the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square, the News Corp. headquarters on Sixth Avenue (hence, Murdoch's kvetching), 30 Rockefeller Center, and in the new Hearst Corp. headquarters on 57th Street.

(Via Boing Boing)

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