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February 25, 2005 12:01 AM

Broken: Francis X10 switches

Francisx10Daniel Brown writes:

The Francis Francis X10 I purchased for my wife a year ago has been a pretty decent espresso machine... with one major flaw.

Every control switch on the front (one for power, one for the pump, and one to create steam for frothing) all share one flaw. Their default position is UP.

You'll notice in this photo that the switch on the far left is on in the down position. It took me 6 months to get accustomed to this convention.


These switches also appear to be completely unlabeled..

Posted by: nanomu at February 25, 2005 12:32 AM

Not sure where you bought it from, but some countries have this convention too - off(top) and On(bottom). We in India have the switches working that way.

Posted by: ashish at February 25, 2005 02:11 AM

I don't think that flipping a switch down to switch it 'on' is particularly unusual, though maybe I'm coming at this from a UK perspective.

My (admittedly 1960s) car dashboard has a row of toggle switches that are all up/off down/on, and I never had any problem working out which way they operated. Indeed even light switches & electrical outlet rocker switches in the UK operate this way.

But as you say, if your switches had been labelled then this would have overcome any lack of clarity.

Posted by: dan at February 25, 2005 04:23 AM

Now THAT would drive me crazy.

Posted by: vickie at February 25, 2005 07:47 AM

If you can't remember vat ze switches do, you do not DESERVE to drink ze espresso!

Posted by: Jacques Troux at February 25, 2005 08:54 AM

This is broken. There needs to be labels not only for what the settings mean but also for what they do in the first place. With a label I could at least figure out what the switches do.

Posted by: Jay at February 25, 2005 09:13 AM

And what is the guage? Pressure, temperature or something else?

Also doesn't red on a guage usually mean "don't let it get this high?" It appears that it is currently well into the red.

Posted by: SD at February 25, 2005 10:02 AM

It looks like Francis Francis (the figure on the gauge) is sticking out his tongue. Did he burn it on the espresso?

Posted by: Bob Sifniades at February 25, 2005 10:33 AM

Up = off, Down = on is the convention for switches in (at least) Britain.

The opposite took me some getting used to when I moved stateside.

Posted by: Rod Begbie at February 25, 2005 12:02 PM

The label-less-ness of the switches is a feature. If you want usability rather than this particular design, you don't pay extra for FrancisFrancis in the first place.

Posted by: rich at February 25, 2005 12:59 PM

SD- I think the gauge is water temperature in Celcius. The zone is red because that is where the water is hot enough to make a good steam (and good espresso for that matter).

...Also, a TRUE espresso connoisseur wouldn't be bothered by the lack of something as bourgeois as labels....

Posted by: Mark at February 25, 2005 02:12 PM

If you have problems with this design, think of it as pushing it the same way the coffee comes out?

it works for me

Posted by: Aaron at February 25, 2005 02:56 PM

Perhaps the theory behind this is that no matter what switch configuration you're used to, you figure it out by 'If it's not working, then flip the switch the other direction!'.

I mean, that's how the lights in my house work. Most of the lights have two or three switches (so for the attic, you don't have to run all the way up the stairs to turn on the light, or run all the way down to turn it on, as it's been turned into a living space and my brother lives up there and turns the lights off at night and doesn't want to have to walk up stairs in the dark), so often a switch will be in the 'on' position even when it's off. I'm just used to 'flipping the switch the other way' if the light isn't on.


Or maybe that's just me.

Posted by: Liz at February 25, 2005 03:15 PM

I'd like to point out that the American convention of up being on is the right way for the very fact that it IS the American convention.

Posted by: Maurs at February 25, 2005 04:29 PM

If it's sold here, it should be intuitive to users here.

Posted by: fuzzy at February 25, 2005 04:36 PM

i see nothing wrong with it

>If you have problems with this design, think of >it as pushing it the same way the coffee comes >out?


>it works for me

I agree with Aaron on this one, the switches should go the way the coffee does, also, that is the ugliest espresso machine ive ever seen.

Posted by: Dragon at February 25, 2005 05:55 PM

I say crack that puppy open and reverse all the switches! Presto, fixed! (What, doesn't everyone dissasemble their household applaiances like that, or is it just me?)

Posted by: Phill at February 26, 2005 02:44 PM

On a recent US visit (from Australia) I noted the switching standard there, and approved. It was good to find something I agreed with! I figure that it makes sense that when switches are in the position that gravity pulls them in, they should be off. Now, having written that, I'm wondering if I've been infected with a virulent meme...

While I was there, I wondered what would happen if there were two switches in parallel on a light circuit - whether there's some sort of standard for their direction. But I couldn't find such a thing to test it out.

Personally, I figure that any sort of misdirection or general wackiness is acceptable in a machine as long as it turns out powerful coffee in the morning.

Posted by: Adam Dennis at February 27, 2005 05:46 PM

And they say engineers design bad interfaces. Yeah, engineers replaced "On/Off" with "Active/Standby" or that geeky "1/0" type, but at least there's labels of some sort. This one was clearly created by an art student.

"But big, ugly toggle switches are *retro*, don't you understand, you Philistine! It's retro while being post modern. The lack of labels invites exploration and makes a deconstructionist statement on the lies and secrets of the presidency!"

Posted by: Citizen Of Trantor at February 28, 2005 10:26 AM

Who cares about the switch problem, I would be more worried that since it is an "X10" it contains a tiny hidden camera that watches everything you do.

Posted by: Vince at February 28, 2005 04:33 PM

There's a common _safety_ convention: up = on, down = off. You want explanation? If something bad happens to you, it's MUCH easier to flip the switch down as your falling hand brushes over the switch, than to *lift* your hand to flip the switch up. Not to mention that a control panel should not turn anything on when a fainting person falls and slips down against it.

Posted by: Wesha at March 1, 2005 09:42 AM

All you have to do is look at old sci-fi movies! Mad scientists always push the knife switch up when they are energizing the monster! And what about old cop movies? What self-respecting executioner pulls a switch down to turn on the electric chair?

As an American pilot many years ago, the switch convention in airplanes I flew was always on=up. Are they the other way in European or Asian aircraft?

Could make for some interesting problems for astronauts on the International Space Station.

Posted by: Bruce at March 1, 2005 12:53 PM

New Zealand has the same convention: here, switches tend to be off when they are up, and on when they are down.

Posted by: Phillip Pearson at March 2, 2005 08:45 PM

Upon reflecting further, I realized it was most likely a "regional" issue. The lack of labeling was something I got over much more quickly. (The switches are arranged chronologically left to right, power, pump, steam.)

I think there is more convention in nature for "off" to be down. (Water stops flowing when it reaches the bottom. When things die, they tend to fall rather than rise.) In amongst the many stupid thing my country does, I think we have the light switch direction right.

HOWEVER, I think having pointed out this "flaw" in the design, I am going to:

A. Take the thing apart and turn the buttons over and

B. Design some trick icons for the front.

Any takers on the icon design?



Posted by: Daniel Brown at March 3, 2005 01:47 AM

What self-respecting executioner pulls a switch down to turn on the electric chair?

Actually, this was by design, according to Robert Elliott's memoirs from the 1950s. The electric chair switch's throw was up because it's critical that it only be engaged on purpose instead of by accident or gravity.

Posted by: Vidiot at March 3, 2005 07:55 PM

If someone is sitting in an electric chair it is not an accident or the person sitting there is stupid for sitting down in the 1st place.

Posted by: Poindexter T Quakenfuss at March 10, 2005 11:36 AM


that isnt an coffee machine of pure caffinated bliss! its an alien mind control robot drone!

Posted by: Picho at March 20, 2005 06:43 PM

Regarding standards for switches "in parallel": Generally these are called three-way switches (or single-pole double-throw to be more tecnhical), where flipping either one will reverse the "on/off-ness" of the light (or other appliance). Given this, there can be no standard for up/down, since either switch can be up or down and the light can be on or off, depending on whether the other switch is up or down.

It takes three wires between the two switches for this to happen, and it's an interesting exercise to figure out the proper connections yourself given the two AC input "lines", two light bulb output "lines", and knowledge of how a three-way switch works. (Connector A sends its current to connector B or C depending on the position of the switch).

But I digress. Three-way switches aren't (and can't be) labeled "On/Off", where regular single-pole single-throw switches are usually labeled on/off.

To be really geeky about it, you could figure out that (depending on the orientation of your three-way switches) if they are both up or both down, the light is on, and if either one is up while the other one is down, the light is off, OR ELSE it's the other way around (again, depending on how they happen to be oriented in relation to each other). Boy, now I'm confused.

Posted by: David Walker at March 24, 2005 05:43 PM



Posted by: I LOVE DAN BROWN at April 13, 2005 08:46 PM

"I'd like to point out that the American convention of up being on is the right way for the very fact that it IS the American convention.


The reverse is almost certainly true - this is the attitude that provoked 9/11

Posted by: exigis at September 23, 2005 11:12 AM

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