Caps Lock, Num Lock, Missiles Lock

"The self destruct is over there, next to the A-C options. I guess don't press that either."
Frank, Two Guys and Guy

Everyone needs a good Doomsday Device or Self-Destruct Mechanism. You never know when you're gonna need them. But, where is this button going to be placed? It has to be somewhere that is easily accessible. So, it's placed just right on the side of the keyboard, where nothing could possibly go wrong.

That is, until, it just gets accidentally pushed while someone's typing.

Therein lies this trope. A button or switch of massive power is placed so carelessly that it almost begs to be accidentally hit. Often, this is done on a keyboard, but it can be done in other locations as needed for the storyline. This can be done, most likely for laughs, intentionally or unintentionally.

Compare and contrast Big Red Button.

A subtrope of Schmuck Bait. May overlap with Inventional Wisdom.


    open/close all folders 

  • In a Cartoon Network promotional short, Birdman has his companion eagle, Avenger, get him coffee by pressing the coffee button on his keyboard... which is only one button away from the Doomsday Button. Closer inspection shows that it's the coffee button that's the most misplaced, as it's surrounded by buttons for lasers and missiles.

  • In the episode "If Angels Wore Swimsuits" in Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Scanty furiously slams her fist down on a button in the middle of their humvee. Kneesocks shouts out that she just pressed the self destruct button, and the car blows up. An Ash Faced Kneesocks lampshaded it afterward.
    Kneesocks: What is the point of that button? Who would choose to use it?

     Comic Books 
  • In Watchmen, Laurie notices a flame-marked button on the control panel of the owlship. Thinking it's a cigarette lighter, she presses it to light up a smoke, and nearly burns down Night Owl's hidden base by setting off the vehicle's flamethrower.
    • Shortly afterwards, Night Owl causally mentions that the owlship is also equipped with missiles. Laurie immediately breaks her cigarette in half.

  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, there are two Big Red Buttons: One to launch the nuclear warheads and one to make latte. They're placed right next to each other and are otherwise unlabeled. In the movie's Stinger, the President accidentally presses the wrong button when he wanted to make some coffee.
  • Forbidden Planet has an example that makes sense upon further thought. The Krell lab that Dr. Morbius repurposed comes with a means to destroys the Krell machine, and with it, the entire planet Altair IV. The only security measure is the fact the self-destruct is a two-step sequence (a button on one console, then a lever several feet away) to prevent it from being triggered accidentally. But it's also established that the Krell were intellectually and morally advanced—thus implying that they had no reason to fear someone trying to activate the self-destruct without a darn good reason.
  • In The Emperor's New Groove, Yzma's lair has two identical levers, one which triggers a trap and another which activates a mechanism for getting around the lair. This later became a running gag in The Emperor's New School.
    Yzma: Wrong leveeeeeerrrrrr!
  • Subverted with the capital Pi icon in The Net, in that simply clicking on the icon redirects to the software's home page. However, Ctrl+Shift+click on the icon gives the user absolute unfettered access to every computer that runs the Corrupt Corporate Executive's operating system.
  • In Apollo 13, Swigert places a note reading "NO" over the lunar module jettison switch, which looks exactly like the hundreds of other switches found throughout the command module, specifically so this doesn't happen.
    • Lovell's autobiography Lost Moon clarifies this: the LM JETT switch was directly to the left of the service module jettison switch, and in this case the latter maneuver was supposed to happen first. In most cases, it wouldn't be a problem because the LM would be jettisoned in lunar orbit, but Apollo 13 was a special case...and Swigert (as well as the rest of the crew) were short on sleep. The more critical switches (including, presumably, these) had guards over them to prevent accidental activation, but in this case the extra insurance (in the form of the NOte) was a wise precaution. If nothing else, it gave Swigert some much-needed peace of mind.
  • A brief case played for laughs in Independence Day, when Russell Casse hops in an F-15 fighter jet. He knows how to fly civilian planes, and has been given a crash-course in military jets, but the first button he presses activates the "Missile Launch". Fortunately, he manages to find the off switch before any missiles actually launch.
    Russell: I picked a helluva day to quit drinkin'...

    Live Action TV 
  • In the episode of Doctor Who, "Genesis of the Daleks", there are two instances of this trope.
    • Davros' chair is equipped with a button that will turn off his life support and kill him in 30 seconds. This button is placed right next to all of his other controls, which could easily be accidentally hit, considering he barely has any control over his only functioning hand. Turning off the life support instantly sends Davros into uncontrollable spasms, so he couldn't even turn it back on himself.
    • Also, the rocket which the Thals plan to use to destroy the Kaleds has two buttons right next to one another on its main control. Fire and Destruct.
  • In one episode of Father Ted, Tom gets a job driving a sewage transport lorry. The lorry's controls include two buttons that are next to each other, one which opens the door to the cab and one which releases the lorry's contents. This is of course heavily lampshaded. When he drives past Ted and Dougal walking along a road, he offers them a lift and goes to press the 'open the cab door' button... cut to Ted and Dougal covered in sewage and Tom apologizing meekly.
  • The premise of Far Out Space Nuts was based on this trope. Two NASA employees were responsible for loading meals onto spacecraft. There was a Breakfast button, a Lunch button, and a Dinner button on the console. But one of these employees was not the sharpest tool in the shed, and when he was instructed to press "Lunch", he hit the adjacent Launch button by mistake, sending the duo into outer space.
  • Get Smart inverts this on more than one occasion. Smart will be shown a car, with buttons for grenade launchers, missiles, machine guns... He'll ask, "What's this button do, Chief?" to be answered with, "That's the window washer, Max."
  • Have I Got News for You has an animated opening which is updated to reflect current events. One of the parts of it that remains the same in most versions is showing the President of the United States at his desk in the oval office. There have been several openings (particularly in the George W. Bush era) that involved them accidentally pressing a large red button.
  • Spitting Image was fond of showing Reagan in bed, with two buttons, one labelled "Nurse" and the other "Nuke", on a bedside control panel, and being obliviously careless about which one he pressed.

  • In the video for Genesis's "Land of Confusion", President Reagan has a panel at his bedside with two buttons: "Nurse" and "Nuke". He accidentally starts World War III trying to get a glass of water. This was taken from Spitting Image, see the example in Live-Action TV.
  • Toward the end of the music video for "It's a Mistake" by the Australian group Men at Work, some military officer has an ashtray sitting on the control console right next to a Big Red Button, which he unwittingly presses while fumbling around.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The Far Side has a cartoon where a man on a plane is about to flip a switch from "Wings Stay On" to "Wings Fall Off" while trying to recline his chair.
    "Fumbling for his recline button, Ted unwittingly instigates a disaster."
  • Brewster Rockit Space Guy features the location of the R. U. Sirius's self destruct button... on an elevator panel, right between the up and down buttons. Immediately after pressing it, Brewster points out that that may not have been the best place for it.

    Video Games 
  • In World of Warcraft, in the Ulduar raid, the Mad Scientist boss Mimiron (who "tests" his inventions by attacking you with them) has a Big Red Button outside his lab that activates an optional time limit for Hard Mode Perks.
    Mimiron: Now why would you go and do something like that? Didn't you see the sign that said 'DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON!'? How will we finish testing with the self-destruct mechanism active?
  • It's quite easy to create one of these in Dwarf Fortress, and there is a real risk of it being triggered accidentally, because insane dwarves and some species of mischievous wild animals may pull levers at random. The Bay 12 forums once ran a "Big Red Lever Of Doom" contest based on this.

    Web Animation 

  • In Two Guys and Guy, Frank keeps his car's self destruct right next to the A-C options.
  • Darths & Droids the Imperial Walkers have the Chamomile Tea button right next to the "Trample Puny Humans" button. Which of these is the poorly placed button will depend on the type of players you have. Whether you need to make a roll check every time you press one will depend on the type of GM you have.

    Web Original 
  • In Space Tree, Space Tree is on death row, yet gets pardoned. The door of the cell he's in has two identical buttons labeled "Door Release" and "Fiery Execution!". The person sent to release him can't read. Do the math.
  • In Twitch Plays Pokémon, the PC is controlled by thousands of players at once via chat commands. Due to these uncoordinated controls, many near game-ruining things can be done on accident, like releasing Pokemon, or digging out of a dungeon, and having to go back through it from the start.

    Western Animation 
  • The Manus robots from Sym-Bionic Titan have their off switches on their backs, on the outside no less. Somewhat justified as that it is meant to be used to deactivate a rogue machine, but it still seems like a terrible design flaw that could easily be exploited by an enemy.
  • Dr. Doofenshmritz on Phineas and Ferb frequently invokes this due to his Running Gag obsession with placing a self destruct button on everything he creates. The ultimate example would have to be when he built an army of giant robots and placed the buttons on the bottom of their feet. The army took one step and was instantly wiped out.
  • In the "Labretto" episode of Dexter's Laboratory, we have Dexter building his first big robot. Then his sister Dee Dee promptly enters the scene and immediately notices a big red button... on the side of the robot's leg.
  • The Transformers: In the notorious episode "B.O.T.", the Decepticons built a cannon designed to knock the moon out of orbit... yet it features an "OVER LOAD" button on a human-height control panel.
  • Megas XLR: The cockpit of Coop's Humongous Mecha (which also happens to be a car) is littered with absurdly labeled buttons powered by the Rule of Funny that trigger deadly weaponry right next to mundane functions like controlling the convertible top.
  • An episode of Freakazoid! had ex-Corrupt Corporate Executive Gutierrez sitting at a desk. On this desk were only two buttons, "Summon Jocko" and "Vaporize World".
  • In the episode of Futurama "The Inhuman Torch", Zapp Brannigan accidentally removes a force field holding a mine around a sun open while trying to dispense a Horchata. Being Zapp Brannigan, there probably wasn't even a button to make Horchata anywhere near those controls, but he nonetheless thought that there was.

    Real Life 
  • Keyboards with multimedia keys. Who would need a "power off" key and why would anyone put it next to something innocuous like "email"?
    • Similarly, multi-key shortcuts make the keyboard into a minefield, especially as a) shortcuts change from program to program, and b) most people only know a few of the basic shortcuts. And may the gods help you if your Control or Option keys become jammed...
  • A PC case with headphone sockets right next to the power button, and two user-USB sockets for pen drives etc, similarly situated either side of the power button. Example.
  • Ford had to recall its MKC SUVs because the designer had placed the "Engine Start/Stop" button in a group with the gear shift buttons, immediately below "Sport Mode".

Alternative Title(s):

Poorly Placed Button, Badly Placed Button