Tape Timer: Amazing design alert 04 Apr 2005

22 comments Latest by Joe

tape timerThe KT401 Tape Timer totally blows my mind. What a beautifully simple design solution. Pull the tape to set the time, and the visible tape shortens as time passes. Makes it really easy to see how much time is left from across the kitchen (or any room). Assuming it works, and the “feel” is right, this is one of the best designs I’ve ever seen (and it’s only $15). [via Gizmodo]

22 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Mobil'Homme 04 Apr 05

I always have to react with skepticism to attempts to represent time in new ways. A physical length is arbitrary: it has no natural mapping to a length of time. But a disc always contains 360 degrees so there is never any scaling/mapping issue as the hand sweeps around: learn a few simple rules, and you can read any clock in the world.

So, if I look across the room and see two inches left, how much time is that? How much are two inches of time? Clearly, used enough, I would automatize the mapping, but why? I’d love to see a new way to display time, but is physical length it?

Rimantas 04 Apr 05

Mobil’Homme I see your point and I agree with it in some sense.
On the other hand, 360 degrees are infinite, so while it is good for time it may not be so good for a timer. And when you pull out the tape by yourself you won’t have much trouble with mapping.

Mobil'Homme 04 Apr 05

Rimantas—Yeah, I think you make a good point. I thought about that too. I guess my argument only holds for timers that use 360 degrees = one hour (because then “status” can be read just like a clock).

Even if I was the one to pull the tape out, I think -I- would still have a problem. A virtue of the disc layout is that it has a built-in legend: the full 360 degress = one hour, so you always have a point of reference. Still, for $15 I could try it instead of waxing philosophic. :-)

indi 04 Apr 05

don’t forget the drama of the hour glass … not good for precise counting down, but you get a definite sense of time running out

seth 04 Apr 05

Hrm…people cook via timers? I always do it by smell and taste. Call me a luddite.

indi 04 Apr 05

seth, you’re a luddite … and yes, I cook the same way :-)

JF 04 Apr 05

I’m not going to use it for cooking. I’m going to have it on my desk at work to remind me of things like “Pick up lunch in 25 minutes” or “Return that call in 45 minutes.”

sloan 04 Apr 05

With the design of this timer, you would need it to be very close to read it. It is an interesting idea in that it is unorthodox. But from any kind of distance, there is no reference point like 360 degrees = 60 minutes, so it is not very effective. Maybe if it had a full height/time indicator for you to judge its relative position? As for JF’s use of it, how will it help anymore than setting a stopwatch to beep in 15 minutes? I would think that there are better timers out there for what you want to use it for.

Mark Eichin 04 Apr 05

It is at least a *different* way of visualizing (in the sense of transmuting into visual form) time. It does get across “almost” better than a beeping alarm can.

(Hmm, I wonder how much of an impact a traditional Hourglass would have on modern meetings - in terms of reminding everyone who can see it that time is passing(wasting) and that “the window is closing”.)

Dan S 04 Apr 05

This seems better than a rotational timer for telling approximate time from a distance, if that is what you are looking for. With a rotational timer you have to remember whether it stops at 0 or 90 degrees, which for some reason I don’t do automatically. And not all rotational timers are so readable from a distance.

Chris 05 Apr 05

It would be great as a Kitchen timer - which is its intention. That’s because it’s easy to use. Simply grab the base and stick a finger in the loop to set the time. If you’ve got your hands full of gunk you don’t want to be fiddling with buttons or rotary dials that end up being clogged up with stuff.

JF 05 Apr 05

Simply grab the base and stick a finger in the loop to set the time.

You don’t even need to use your finger — use a fork, knife, or spoon. Anything with a long thin handle.

Dan Boland 05 Apr 05

Oops, I think I screwed up my tags. I also wanted to mention the Galileo thermometer.

Ray 05 Apr 05

Gosh, this sounds like a bunch of academic hoity-toity designers trying to torpedo the design because they didn’t think of it themselves! Look, it’s a cool $15 dollar gadget. You’d probably use it as a kitchen timer or on your desk for quick reminders like “call Harry in 15 minutes.” Who looks at timers from across the room? People use timers because they just need to hear something ring when the time is up WHILE THEY DO SOMETHING ELSE. If you are that nervous about counting down the minutes, use your watch.

If you are still that skeptical about its value as a design, buy it anyway as a present. At least it should work as something to work down your gift-giving list. There are worse things you can spend $15 on.

Dave 05 Apr 05

A 360-degree display would be great — if you could set it for the time you want and display it that way. I’ve never seen a timer that does that.

As for this device, presumably you have some shred of memory of how long the tape was when you set it, and every time you look at it you have that frame of reference in your memory somewhere.

As Jason said in his FPP (can I use that here?), it makes it very easy to check from a distance and get a rough sense of how much time is left.

If our kitchen had any free counter space, I’d get one in a hurry. And if they come up with a fridge-sticky model (presumably with the tape sticking out the top so it’s not a hazard), I’ll definitely get one.

Eric 05 Apr 05

I’m actually appalled by many of the comments. This is a case of looking cool but being functionally challenged. Not form following function but the other way around.

If you put it on a surface it will require 2 hands to set a time. A dial timer requires only one hand. If you put the hole through a nail on the wall, you can use it with one hand by pulling the box down.

If you pull too much, you’re SOL, as I don’t think you can push the tape back in! If you later decide to reduce the time, you’re SOL!

Come on folks, looking cool at the cost of functionality is generally bad. The emperor has no clothes!

Ray 06 Apr 05

Whether it’s cool or not, or whether it’s worth spending $15 on it or not, whether it has a built-in time scale or not, whether it’s useful across the room or not, whether it has more form than function or the other way—it doesn’t matter.

What was the initial impression you got when you first saw it? And what was it that made you want to spend all these extra minutes posting a comment (and did it really have anything to do with the product itself)?

Don Schenck 07 Apr 05

I like it.

A more impressive design would incorporate some way of the time getting “more urgent” as it comes nearer and nearer to it’s end. That way, it represents the pressure that is building as a deadline nears.

Oh … wait … we already have that. It’s called a “spouse”.


Ray 26 Apr 05

OK, so this is about 3 weeks after my last post, and I just received the tape timer in the mail. Impressions:

1) From the picture, I had expected the timer base to be substantially heavier, and the tape tension fairly light so that you can just use one hand to pull it up. Well, the actual thing is much lighter: the silver surface is plastic, not metal, and the tape itself a little harder to pull up. Net result: you have to use both hands to work it: one to hold the thing down, and the other to pull up.

2) The tape markings are fairly close together, so it can get hard if you want something in 6 minutes instead of 7 minutes, for example. A longer tape (meaning more of the tape gets spooled in per minute) with less tension would be great.

3) There is no clear point in the base for where to read the remaining time interval. Depending on your point of view, it could be 6 minutes left, or is it 7? See point 2 above.

4) There is an wheel at the bottom of the base that you can operate to reduce the time interval. If you’ve pulled the tape up too much, you use this wheel to bring some (or even all) of it back in.

5) The ring at the end is a short less than one second ring.

6) The timer mechanism itself is quite loud, so you hear the tick-ticking of this thing. That’s a big disappointment for me (but then I’m the type who has given away Swatch watches because they tick too loudly).

Well, it’s a gadget all right!

Jay 17 May 05

YO! LISTEN UP RAY & Y’all !!!
1) The Timer’s Housing AND the Pull-Ring (i.e. all the “silver surfaces” are actually REAL cast-aluminum !!! I am very impressed at the overall quality of construction, etc: Seems like it’s made to LAST. In any case, much more than “just” a typical $15 gadget, for sure!

2) The INSTRUCTIONS with the packaging are very specific: in order to operate correctly, the Tape should be FIRST pulled out all the way to the end, i.e. 60mins, THEN using the Adjustment-Wheel on the bottom to regulate the time desired. This makes a lot of sense: YOU KNOW WHAT??? It happens that ALL spring/mechanical-timers are like this (even circular ones): It is necessary to “WIND UP” the clock FIRST, then set the time. If you do this with this TapeTimer, it makes PERFECT time AND the BELL LASTS A GOOD 5-6 SECONDS!!!

3) Say WHAT about reading the time-interval at the base??? To me it seems quite clear: The Tape disappears at a very specific point into the Housing, a point which is highlighted by the very tasteful plastic trim. This line is specific and very easy to see the time indicated.

4) The comments about “one-handed use” are way outta hand: NOBODY uses any kinda timer with one hand, circular-type or other. You guys are diggin way too deep here.

5) Let’s face it: This thing is cool. It represents time in a new and very useful way (very easy to intuitively “read” the time whether you can make out the numbers or not). It is HIGHLY FUNCTIONAL. It is solid & High quality.

Where’s the problem? I like this thing. I would spend substantially more. It makes a great gift for a lot of different people, not just my mom!