Title text: Despite it being imaginary, I already have SUCH a strong opinion on the cord-switch firing incident.
This comic details a set of theoretical examples of how much work went into the design and manufacture of everyday objects. The joke centers around the fact that most people in modern times are constantly surrounded with human-built objects, which we generally use without giving them much thought. Randall implies that he occasionally imagines what went into seemingly simple objects around him (like water glasses and desk lamps), and finds it overwhelming. This is because there are so many built items around us, many of which are inexpensive and mass-produced, which nonetheless resulted from a great deal of human effort. (This is similar to the thesis of the classic essay I, Pencil). Presumably, this kind of realization is more likely for people who've worked in design and engineering, like Randall, because they have some insight into what's involved in bringing a product to market. Also people who sit around all day wondering what could be funny, like Randall, could also end up in such a thought spiral. The comment about California recalls is based on the tags on products that often state "This item has been known by the state of California to cause..."
There's a double joke in the title as the first thing most people will think of when seeing such a table with such a lamp, they will think of a work desk rather than the work put into making the desk and lamp. The potential implication is that Randall is so distracted imagining the work that went into creating his workspace that he can't get his own work done, hence the title.
The title text hits another aspect of the design issue. Companies that design and manufacture goods will inevitably have human conflicts, where decisions will be argued over, and human personalities and office politics will impact the final design. Randall has apparently come up with an entire fictional narrative about a conflict over whether to put the lamp's switch on the lamp body itself, or to attach it to the lamp's power cord, and developed a strong opinion about who was right, and is angry that the other part was fired, since he really seems to dislike lamps with the switch on the cord as in this comic. Randall's distaste for lamps where the switch is on the cord is also mentioned in the title text of 1036: Reviews.
A similar theme of the unseen contributions of engineers is found in 277: Long Light, including the title text: "You can look at practically any part of anything manmade around you and think 'some engineer was frustrated while designing this.' It's a little human connection." This fits in well with Randall's annoyance with a switch on the cord.
Individual Design Elements
|An engineer worked late drawing this curve in AutoCAD||AutoCAD is a popular software package for doing computer-aided design.|
|Extra vents added to avoid California safety recall|
|9 hours of meetings|
|Years-long negotiation with glass supplier|
|4 hours of meetings|
|Months of tip-over testing|
|Wood source changed due to 20 year legal fight over logging in the Great Bear rainforest||The Great Bear rainforest is a temperate rainforest on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The government of British Columbia recently announced an agreement to protect 85% of this forest from commercial logging.|
|Argument over putting switch on cord got someone fired|