Bob like interfaces?

Levi Pearson levipearson at
Thu Feb 6 15:58:22 MST 2014

On Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 2:32 PM, S. Dale Morrey <sdalemorrey at> wrote:

> Nevertheless, a novice driver should probably stick with an automatic or
> stick shift because that's what is in use by 99% of the automobiles on the
> road.  Learning to paddle shift then would just be pointless because they
> would be hard pressed to find a car with a price tag lower than a ferrari
> that comes with that type of shifting mechanism.

There are actually reasonably affordable cars with paddle shifters.
The most recent incarnation of the Toyota MR2 Spyder had the option of
a 5-speed hydraulic clutch SMT with paddle shifters.  Essentially the
same tech as race cars, albeit with a much milder shift technique.

There have also been quite a few traditional auto transmissions that
have a semi-manual mode and paddle shifters.  I think I test-drove a
Mazda 3 with a configuration like that.

Anyway, despite those exceptions, I get your point.  And I think
there's a further comparison to be made between computer and car
interfaces and usability.  And that is: the stick shift is *way*
harder to get the hang of than the rest of the standard automotive
controls.  The steering wheel is pretty obvious; you turn the wheel,
and that makes the car turn.  Pushing one pedal makes the car
accelerate; pushing the one next to it makes it slow down. You can't
tell that by *looking* at them, but there's clear feedback on what's
happening when you actuate them and they line up nicely with your
feet. With an automatic transmission, the basic controls end there,
and it's *really* easy to get the hang of basic techniques.

On a standard transmission, suddenly you have this extra component
that works via *two* controls and requires monitoring of a gauge as
you use it.  The hand lever must be moved in a non-obvious pattern at
certain points which you just have to learn, and which don't always
have a complete correspondence between different manual transmission
vehicles.  And you have to carefully coordinate the motion of the
lever with the action of *two* foot pedals and the movement of a
gauge.  Fortunately, there's some pretty obvious sensory feedback when
you get it wrong in various ways, or I'm not sure people would ever
get very good at it. :P

Those are the sorts of interactions that are common in complex
software systems, although the feedback mechanisms can be hard to
interpret and there can be far more degrees of freedom in the
interaction.  If computers weren't so amazingly useful, probably no
one would bother figuring out to use them in the first place.


More information about the PLUG mailing list