Saturday, January 03, 2009

Too Many LEDs

I was having a conversation yesterday with someone and we somehow managed to get onto the topic of LEDs and how there are too many of them. I wholeheartedly agreed because I've been getting annoyed lately at how bright everything is when the lights are turned off at night.

This morning I walked around the place before I turned anything on. I could see my way clearly everywhere. Whatever happened to all the fun we used to have with being able to stub our toes on something in the dark? Light Emitting Diodes. Pff. Whatever.

I counted them before turning anything on: 47 LEDs all either steadily on or going blinkety-blink in the dark. No one is looking at them. In terms of brightness at night, the bright blue and bright white LEDs are the worst (i.e. they output too much light). Green falls behind at a close second and red is last. I'm sure there are other colors and maybe different perceptions of how bright they actually are but all this light is wholly unnecessary. Especially since this wastes continuous electricity (47 * 30 to 60 mW = 1.4 to 2.8 Watts of continuous draw - not a whole lot, but it does add up) AND I'm pretty sure they also disturb sleep. Yup, I wouldn't be surprised to find some study that LEDs are the single greatest cause of sleep deprivation.

What are LEDs on all our devices good for anyway? One-glance diagnostic purposes. Now let me ask all you users: How often do you actually need to look at a device's diagnostic lights? Probably a few times per day for a phone but almost never for most other devices. The worst offenders - in order of offenses: My USB thumbdrive (a steady bright-blue fade in, fade out), Qwest DSL modem (I recently switched away from Comcast - a story for another time), a D-Link router, VOIP box, and the Ethernet connection in the back of the computer.

It really isn't hard to fix this problem: Add a button on the device that turns on the lights for a few seconds and then they - here's a shocker - turn off again. What a brilliant idea! Too bad I didn't think of it first: Wristwatches do this already. Engineers: Go steal, er, "borrow" the necessary technology from those who make wristwatches.

I swear Internet-connected components are the worst in terms of the quantity and annoyingness of their use of LEDs. Internet component engineers use the brightest LEDs possible and then make them blink incessantly. When was the last time you actually needed to look at the LEDs on those devices? Exactly. You can't remember. Neither can I.

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