De-blackboxing a Smart TV

I found the readings from this week to be an excellent introduction to some of the foundational concepts of design thinking. The Lidwell reading, Universal Principles of Design, was a really concise and useful look at the various concerns and factors that are intrinsic in good design. I learned a lot of new principles that I look forward to applying in this course. The Arthur reading, The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves, also contained a plethora of new and exciting ways to look at technology.

This past summer my family bought a new Samsung smart TV, so I had the opportunity to take apart our old Sony LCD flatscreen. By no stretch of the imagination could I be considered an electronics whiz, so I was mainly tinkering around out of curiosity. But now that I retrospectively look back at the process, I can identify a few concept from the readings. For example, when I de-blackboxed the TV by unscrewing its back plate, the components were clearly modularly assembled, which made maintenance, repair, and upgrading a relatively easy process. Comparing the remotes for the old LCD and the new smart TV was an exercise in design thinking, particularly the concept of a flexibility-usability tradeoff. Whereas the old remote had a distinct button for almost every function, the new remote was very simplistic, with only a few buttons.

Evolution of the TV remote. Final product is the Samsung One Remote for their Smart TV.

The actual smart TV itself can be seen as an example of the combinatorial technology process that Arthur promulgates. What makes it “smart” is its ability to interact and communicate with other technologies and devices. This interconnectivity is built upon the existence of a host of foundational technologies, such as wireless/bluetooth networks. What I find interesting is that all this technology already existed; it is the assembly of these technological components into one unit/product that we recognize to be a novel “invention”.


  1. Arthur, W. Brian. The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves. Reprint edition. New York: Free Press, 2011.
  2. Donald A. Norman. Living with Complexity. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2010.
  3. William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler. Universal Principles of Design. Revised. Beverly, MA: Rockport Publishers, 2010.