Why We Should Remember the Blinking Twelve

VCR, old VCR, blinking 12, blinking 12:00, blinking twelve

Old VCRs: always 12 o’clock

The early VCRs were so difficult to program that, for years, many living rooms had an illuminated “12:00” flashing from the new toy atop the TV. And ever since the Internet started revolutionizing media and communications, I’ve kept that image in mind. I don’t ever want to be so befuddled by helpful new technology that I end up like, well… like a whole generation of American dads circa 1980.

So I considered naming this blog TheBlinkingTwelve or some variation. I thought I was being clever.

Ha. Good thing I Googled it first. Turns out it’s such a good metaphor that it’s entered the lexicon. There’s even a Wikipedia page:

The blinking twelve problem is a term used in Software Design. It usually refers to features in software which are unusable due to the complexity of the user interface to use them. … The usage emanates from the ‘clock’ feature provided on many VCR‘s … found complicated by most users.

And from urbandictionary.com:

blinking 12 generation

The typically 50+ year old individuals who have a blinking 12:00 on their VCR. These people frequently have difficulty understanding and using anything electronic or computer related. If they do use such devices, it will normally be only for exactly their use, no more.

Wait – what’s that, you ask? What’s a “VCR,” anyway…?

Funny, as flummoxed as my late father was by the VCR, my mother is right on board with the Apple generation 30 years later – iPhone, iPad, iTunes, the whole thing. I love that she loves it all.  There’s no “blinking twelve” in her house.

RELATED: Fascinating 1981 TV News Report on Early Internet

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