What kind of machines should not freeze

Today I went to the gym for a change because I have to use my 5 coupons before next week. But I don’t like staying there too long, usually I stay for maximum 30mn. Beyond 30mn I go existential and I think oh man I’m walking towards nowhere, on a machine that doesn’t move, what am I doing ???. So as usual I wanted to make it quick. Usual program : fast walk, and very high slope.

On the treadmill

So here I am, on the treadmill doing the fast walk, grabbing onto the machine’s handle. At some point I had to hydrate so I needed to let go of the machine to grab my bottle of water. Letting go of the machine is psychologically challenging for me because I’m always afraid the machine will eject me, just like an invalid disc. So I’m very extra cautious at the moment of walking hands free on a very high speed and very high slope treadmill. I’m letting go of the handle finger by finger, and there! I’m hands free now, walking super fast, on the verge of being propelled in space quick quick drink your water before you get ejected ! It’s always a very stressing moment.

Maybe the machine sensed I was tense, so BAM, it stopped. That’s right! Exactly at this moment the machine just stopped. ?????. I stayed still for a moment. ??????. It just stopped and displayed this message on the blank screen : “Resetting…”. Wasn’t it aware that someone was walking on it? What if I was running? Thank goodness I don’t like running on machines. For about 3mn it was “Resetting…” The weird part was that it didn’t seem like an error, it more seemed like the machine chose that moment to do its daily resetting routine regardless of its user. It was living its own life ! It didn’t even warn or slow down before resetting, it just stopped. Stopped. After several minutes, ah finally “Touch the screen”.

What if

That made me think what if other machines also lived their own life regardless of the users? Right during a flight, on the plane’s screen : “Resetting…”, on the highway in your car “Resetting….”, in your spaceship during the rebellion  “Resetting….”, on your phone when you need rescue “Resetting…”, you get the picture. Of course that stuff can happen, machines are not flawless, but it’s your job (the engineer) to integrate those flaws in your design and prepare an alternative, something like a plan B, that doesn’t make it look like too much like a bug.

Here they could have made the machine slow down before it completely stops. They have the screen displaying “Resetting” so they know it’s happening, they should have triggered an event “Slow down the treadmill if it’s running”, that’s not a difficult check. Maybe they just tested and saw that there is no risk to the machine just stopping like that, but I doubt that, especially if you’re running, and for user experience it’s really disturbing. No, I don’t think they did a speed check, that’s too much of a high level check, just checking if it’s used is enough. Sloppy design, sloppy design.

No machines should ever freeze, we use them too much. But especially those that carry you, should really never freeze. But even simple computers should not freeze we need them too much. As recently as last sunday, I needed information for my train and the person at the counter couldn’t give me that information because his screen froze, he could not check the information. He just said “sorry I don’t know, it froze”. I remember that not so long ago, we used to rely on those people to give us the information, now we can have the same information as them inside our phone. It was very weird to realize that. The information people get actually just comes from an interface, the interface delivers the information. How about that. I deviate but really no machines should freeze, not just like that.