February 04, 2008

Beware the Blinkenlichten

Blue lit pillarI have just bought a Maxtor Onetouch 4 hard drive to act as a backup. So far so good... except that it is turning night into day. If I leave my computer on overnight (such as for making an initial backup) it produces the following light:

  • The hard drive has a bight white LED that blinks when it works
  • The Belkin powerstrip has a green LED to signal that it works, as well as an orange light in the on-off button.
  • The other power strip just has one big green light, but it flickers slightly.
  • The keyboard has a small orange LED.
  • The mouse shines slightly red.
  • The computer has a big green light on the front plus a smaller LED
  • There is a green light on the back too.
  • The wireless has a LED that flickers.
  • One or two power supplies also have green LEDs.
  • Each of the external hard drives (Maxtors too) have a blue light that starts to blink when the drive is not used.

Add to this that my cellphone blinks discreetly in green, my home wireless phone recharger shines brightly red and my laptop in hibernation mode blinks yellow.

My bedrom looks like a mad scientist disco from some schlocky 80's horror movie: it is filled with eerie green light, blinking in complex rhythms. Might be a nice ambience, except when trying to sleep - as soon as my eyes dark adapt the whole room becomes quite distracting. It reaches levels where medical papers are actually starting to see epidemiological effects due to reduced melatonin production. Yet my computer system is fairly modest.

(And no, I do not have another room to put the computer in)

This is indoor light pollution. We are justly annoyed by loud computers, but what about visually polluting ones? We have finally got away from the beige boxes to nicer cases - but try finding one without lots of garish lights.

These lights all serve to indicate one thing: that a particular device is working. But they cannot be turned off except by covering them with black tape. They are wasting energy and stealing attention. I have a strong feeling we need to figure out a better way of indicating function than emiting energy.

Posted by Anders3 at February 4, 2008 09:56 AM