Everyday Objects: Marli Bottle Opener

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October 13th, 2009    

Several years back, on a fall visit to New York City and the Museum of Modern Art, I stumbled on this beautiful object in the museum shop. What better trinket to remember my weekend trip to NYC than a figure-8 stainless-steel bottle opener? Small, lightweight, easy-to-use and perfectly designed. There are no extra moving parts. There is no excess weight. There isn’t even an instructions or the word “open” written anywhere.


It works perfectly and looks great lounging lazily on the counter.

However, it wasn’t until I has purchased the bottle opener and brought it home that I discovered it had a slight flaw. When a friend came over and happily helped themselves to a beverage they struggled at first to remove the cap. Why? The opener had the same problem as the USB connection.

Whenever your regularly connect two unalike objects, like a cord to a computer or a bottle opener to a cap, you must be sure you don’t have any other possible way to connect the two objects that will result in a failure. With the USB port, since the connection pins are recessed in the actual port, the user can’t see which of the two possible ways the USB cord should be inserted. With a firewire port you don’t have that problem since the port shape only allows for one possible way to connect.


So, after one failed attempt, my friend was able to pop the top and enjoy their adult beverage, but only after the slight misstep. This doesn’t mean it would happen to everyone. Given the 50/50 nature of the problem, at least 50% would not have an issue at all. For the other 50%, the design goal would then be to eliminate making the same mistake the next time the two objects are connected. Since the design of the Marli bottle opener has a gentle curve in it that not only rests naturally in your palm but also the correct direction for proper cap removal, the next bottle opening was successful.

Unfortunately with USB, because you are rarely peering down the hole of the port, you are likely to repeat your blunder many times in the future.


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