Failure is not an option

Our camera stores pictures on a compact flash memory card. The other day when changing the card, Gail managed to bend a pin inside the camera, so it wouldn’t recognize any card. We took it into a camera repair shop yesterday, and it’s going to cost us $200 to get fixed. The repair guy said that Gail likely tried to put the card in sideways or backwards or something and that it’s not that uncommon. For a fairly expensive piece of equipment, this seems like a blatant design flaw. If a card should only go in one way, why can’t they design them so that it’s physically impossible to put it in wrong? Make it so that it’s impossible to screw it up. Failure should not be an option.

We had the same problem with an old wireless PCMCIA card. We had a PCI card in the computer, and that card had a slot that the PCMCIA card could slip into. But it was entirely possible to put the card in the wrong way, in which case it simply wouldn’t work. (Luckily it didn’t damage the card.) Unfortunately, it wasn’t plug and play, so you had to shut the computer down, put the card in, and boot it up again. If you got it backwards, you’d have to shut the computer down again, reverse the card, then boot it back up.

The designers of the SD card that’s in my kids’ $89 cameras seemed to get it right:

  1. Make it a rectangle that’s longer than it is wide, so you can’t put it in sideways
  2. Put a notch in one corner so that if you put it in backwards, the notch makes it not fit before the card gets to the pins.

Update: I wrote the above before talking to the camera guy. Turns out it is impossible to put the card in backwards or upside down, but it is not impossible to put it in sideways. If they had made it “portrait instead of landscape” as the camera guy said, this possibility would have been removed as well.


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