There is a (semi-)famous interview question of the Microsoft type that states “Design controls for a microwave oven.” Well, lately it crossed my mind and I came to a realisation. And therefore I have worked out my answer to this question (not that I will ever interview at MS) and my answer is as follows:
Microwaves only need one control! The one magic control that a microwave needs is: add on a minute and turn on at full power. Most microwaves have this control now, and I never use any other button on the machine. I, technophile that I am, disregard the whole microwave user interface, carefully crafted no doubt to allow me to defrost 3.2kg of lamb with maximal efficiency. These days when I meet a microwave without the magic button, I'm reduced to figuring out how to make it work: do I have to select power first? Time in minutes and 10-second increments? Then another button to start? How silly! I just want to press the magic button and have everything be OK.
Here's why it's so powerful:
1) I never cook anything at less than full power. What's the point? A microwave is supposed to cook stuff quickly – why would I want to do things with it that I could do in the same time in a conventional oven?
2) I never microwave anything that takes more than 10 minutes (and most things take considerably less – 10 mins is the baked potato spiking the end of the graph). If I want a fraction of a minute (e.g. for a mince pie), then it's such a short time that I'm waiting for it anyway, so I'm watching the timer.
A microwave does nothing else. I might concede a “Clear” button would be nice, so that's a grand total of two buttons. (No you don't need a button to open the door, just pull.) “But,” I hear the interviewer saying, “might you want it to tell the time? Or act as a general purpose timer?” Sure. Doesn't need a button to tell the time, any more than my computer, video, or atomic-time-signal clock does. Already has a timer control. Just hit the magic button when the door is open to start the timer but not the cook cycle. One button to rule them all!
The only remaining question is: why don't they make microwaves like this? They could save over half the electronics. I think it won't be long.