Practical Engineering

July 9, 2015 Steve Hawley

If nothing else, I am a pragmatist. While I value elegance or prettiness in a solution, I am a huge fan of solutions that are a happy medium, and I found just such a solution recently while looking at my phone on a sunny day.

I have clip on sunglasses that are polarized. This means that there are a series of very small lines across the lenses which cuts down on glare and makes it easier to see. I remember discovering one of the cool properties of polarized lenses when I was in 5th grade when both my best friend and I had polarized sunglasses. If you look through them at someone who is also wearing polarized lenses and you put your ear on your shoulder (rotating your head 90 degrees), you’ll see the other person’s lenses turned completely dark and opaque.

I was wondering why I was able to see my phone through my glasses, since the glass on smartphones is usually polarized.

It’s a little darker, but that’s it. Turn my shades 90 degrees:

Wait – what? I can still see perfectly well.

And here’s the cleverness and the pragmatic solution – look at what happens when I turn the lenses 45 degrees:

The engineer that designed the phone put the polarization oriented at a 45 degree angle on the glass so that if you are wearing sunglasses, you can read your phone in each of the 4 most common orientations.

Beautiful.

About the Author

Steve Hawley

Steve was with Atalasoft from 2005 until 2015. He was responsible for the architecture and development of DotImage, and one of the masterminds behind Bacon Day. Steve has over 20 years of experience with companies like Bell Communications Research, Adobe Systems, Newfire, Presto Technologies.

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