Younger readers might not realize this, but domestic American automobiles used to have a singular triumph of ergonomic engineering: The headlight switch. In pretty much every American car, by whatever maker, was a round knob on the dashboard just to the left of the steering wheel. Pulling it out one click turned on the parking lights and pulling it out all the way turned on the headlights. Rotating it clockwise brightened the instrument panel lights and turning it all the way clockwise turned on the overhead dome light. Genius. It could be operated totally by feel and it worked the same way in your car, your drunk friend’s car, or a rental car on a dark and rainy night far from home.
There’s a lot to be said for universality. Murilee Martin, seeking parts for a Dodge project van:
It appears that Chrysler used the same headlight switch for damn near every motor vehicle they built from the time of the Bay Of Pigs to the time of the Iranian Hostage Crisis.
To perform those same functions on my car requires two different twisty things on a stalk (I have fog lights, which are worth even less than you think they are) plus a push-button a meter away.
The only real problem with the headlight knob, apart from the fact that it was a knob and therefore in the eyes of regulators a threat to anyone with a forehead, is that it did not incorporate the so-called “dimmer switch,” which despite its name is used to switch on the high beams. (Go driving around an hour and a half before sunrise and you will quickly discover that no one has a clue as to how to switch them off.) Had they found some way to work that into the basic switch but no, let’s not go there. Let’s be grateful that a couple of generations were able to learn as much as they were with the equipment they had.