Switches, Knobs & Push Buttons. The resilience of Physical Connections.

The arrival of the Smart phone and more importantly the touch screen was a massive leap not just in technological development but in a mental phase shift driving design away from the traditional physical push button.  This was and still is an amazing and exciting development, but it comes with a price.

Although strictly speaking switches and buttons may not have an obvious link to cable assembly most of these do need to be wired so there is your link.  We wire up a lot of these type of assemblies ready to install into devices. 

Touch Screen v Physical

With the drive towards touch screen, it became apparent that not all devices are suitable or in some cases not appropriate.  To explain this, if you have ever been on a device and tapped link for it not to work, this can be very frustrating, but imagine this being connected to a medical device or a industrial control unit then it is not too hard to imagine the major consequences.   

I don’t believe we can ever replace the emergency shut off button on an industrial device and I certainly don’t like the idea of the deployment of nuclear weapons being given over to interfaces controlled by software.

Touch screens use soft buttons and keypads that use software to perform the various functions whereas physical switches and buttons perform the task via electrical circuits.  As reliable as touchpads are today, they wil never be as reliable as their physical counterparts.

An Element of Joy

There is also one very important factor that we need to consider, the simple joy of pushing buttons!  Sometimes it’s nice to press buttons and have that tactile feel of your physical action making something work.

So,  whether you are a big fan of sleek touchscreen interfaces thinking of the future or are you a sensual person who enjoys that feeling you only get from button pushing?   By asking these questions I may seem like a luddite, but the reality is that I think there is a place for both in the future.

Predicting the future

A best guess at the future will see not just further integration of switches but an introduction of more voice commands and with COVID coming along we have all come to think about how many times we all touch the same screens, so voice is the future. 

But and this is a big but, for reasons outlined above and the sheer joy of touching things in the future the traditional pushbutton, switch and knob will be around for along time to come.  Who knows there may also be smartphones with physical keypads in the future but then again maybe retro will become fashionable, in the same way I’m not ready to throw away all my tie-dyed clothes just yet!

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