During the Summer I'm either surfing or working on projects around our small garden/farm. Winter is upon us here in Boston and I'm ready to start attacking the long list of projects I've postponed for the 'indoor months'.
However, I have hit the problem I face every Winter. I suffer from Season Affective Disorder which can result in a lack of energy in the dark Winter months. I have many ideas waiting to be made - but I've lacked a degree of motivation, until now that is.
Instructables to the rescue:
Eric's dawn simulator put me on to the Soleil lamp: I purchased a Soleil on ebay and I'm very happy with the lamp, my boss is happy I'm turning up for work on time... but...
The problems with the current design...
Feature creep is defined as the proliferation of features in a product such as computer software. Extra features go beyond the basic function of the product and so can result in baroque over-complication rather than simple, elegant design.
I'm a designer and believe that design, in part, is the art of removing the non-essential such as a 'Demo' mode. This is an alarm clock folks... my microwave oven has fewer buttons. I continue this critique in step 2.
The other major aspect of design is the visual aesthetic. I've included an image comparing the Soleil with its twin sister Mrs. Dalek and its cousin Robbie the robot. Danger Will Robinson.. you're about to be woken up by an eye sore.
Electronics devices do not have to be so drab
You don't need a laundry list of expensive tools nor a degree in industrial design to remake manufactured products.
With this Instructable I hope to demonstrate how you can both construct a new home for almost any gadget and utilise a simple hand drill for any number of jobs; achieving some pretty nice results.
Even if you do not particularly like the final outcome of this project I hope it motivates you to take a second look at those generic plastic products that clutter our lives and re-make them in to objects that suite your needs and please your senses.
So, with superfluous functions and the looks of a Dalek from Dr. Who on the chopping block.... my first project of Winter '09 is the Alarm Clock Retrofit.
NOTE: many people have reported problems watching the videos for this instructable. It seems google video is having problems. I recommend hitting your browser's reload button and clicking the play button again
Step 1: Design 1: Understanding what I've got to work with
Inside this alarm are all the standard parts you get in any $10-$20 alarm clock. I was a little dissapointed to realize I paid four times that amount for an alarm clock WITH a light bulb that wouldn't look out of place on a Christmas tree. Now, I'm super motivated to remake it.
Functional design basics
'"Security mode", Automatically turns the lamp on at random intervals to give burglars the impression that someone is at home....
I highly doubt this will deter any burglar worth his salt.
Seriously manufacturer... just because you can incorporate a particular feature doesn't mean you should. The more complex a device is, the harder it is to use it.
When redesigning something ask yourself these questions;
1) What exactly is this feature?
2) How often will I use this feature?
3) With 'less is more' in mind, can I remove this feature and have the device/product still meet my needs?
Go where no average consumer has gone before:
As I dismantled the device, I was happy to find that it would be relatively easy to solder in new switches for the front panel. The Volume and Tuner controls are going to be a little trickier but not impossible. The Tuner display and related cogs are going to be difficult and then it struck me! I only ever listen to one radio station, the local NPR: Boston's WBUR. A second, closer look at the tuner control told me it was going to be more difficult to convert than previously anticipated. That sealed the deal - one less 'feature'... this radio is going to be a 1 trick pony with me waking up to Tom Ashbrook covering the world's events.
With the research expedition into the clock complete, I reassembled the parts and moved on to prototyping the new design.
List of features and functions I need to carry forward into the new design:
Time: 7 segment display & am/pm LED
Light: will require a holder
Sun up setting: momentary switch
Sun down setting: momentary switch
Alarm or time set: momentary
Alarm on/off: momentary & LED
List of features and functions being deleted:
Snooze. (I abhor this feature on any alarm and its the point of many a debate with my wife!! (o;)
Radio Buzzer selector. This will always be set to radio as I hate buzzers
For more information on the alarm clock itself;
How to take apart electronics
Understanding the different types of switches