Those comments of Dennis’s reminded me of the project mentioned earlier that I had worked on during my years at IBM—designing the system that would sell tickets for BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit, which was the high-speed rail transit system then under construction for the San Francisco area. The IBM project involved designing and building the machines that riders would buy their tickets from in each station. The concept required that you would have to register in advance and receive a personal code number. When you got to the station, you would enter your code and then feed coins or bills into the machine to purchase a ticket.
When the BART machines were pretty nearly finished, we told our employees to call on their family members and anybody else they could corral, to come in and try out the machines. On one Saturday, we must have had close to a thousand people show up to take part in our user trials.
It was a disaster, an unbelievable disaster. After feeding in your money, there was a long wait before anything happened. People would think the machine wasn’t working and just start pushing buttons. Then they finally gave up and walked away, thinking they had lost their money.
The machines would only accept bills that were slid in with the correct orientation—face side up, the correct end of the bill going in first. If you slid the bill in wrong or if the bill was a little crumpled, the machine would slide it back out again. One more source of user ...