There’s a photo I recall of the Space Shuttle flight deck looking out over the cargo bay.

What’s most interesting about it is the number of kitchen timers velcroed to various surfaces.  They were definitely afterthoughts.

After a few flights NASA started to realize that their multi-billion orbiter was short a few $1.50 timers on the flight deck.  They were used for things like timing rendezvous maneuvers, arm movements and more.  It was such a simple  need that was evidently overlooked early on.  Or perhaps not so much overlooked as much as no one foresaw the usefulness.

I was thinking of this tonight as I was cleaning up in the kitchen and realizing how useful timers are so I don’t forget things. In this case, putting the wok on the hot stove to boil off some water.  Something I could easily walk away from and realize an hour later I had forgotten about. Sure a pretty mundane use, but a very important one.

I’m also reminded of it as I’ve submitted a proposal to a local company to add something new to their business.  The idea came from an off-hand comment the business owner had made.  More importantly though, he liked the prototype because I listened to his other comments.  This had to integrate into an existing manual system as easily as possible.  He had others come to his business and suggest multi-thousand dollar solutions that would require he hire MORE staff and send them all to training.  That was not a winning business solution.  If my proposal is recommend, it will involve a laptop on the desk and at most 1-3 mouse clicks to do what he wants his team to do.  Time in training… 5 minutes. Cost.. under $1K upfront (and under $1K monthly).  Possible impact on his business >$1K a month.

That’s hopefully a winning combination.  I’ll know tomorrow if it works.

But sometimes the simplest approach is the best approach.