|By Richard Monson-Haefel||
|April 10, 2008 09:15 AM EDT||
In his book, Designing Interactions, Bill Moggridge muses on the improbable invention of the computer mouse.
“Who would choose to point, steer, and draw with a blob of plastic as big and clumsy as a bar of soap? We spend all those years learning to write and draw with pencils, pens, and brushes.”
Who indeed? At the time the mouse was invented other devices such as the light pen, key pads, and joysticks and even the trackball existed or were being considered for pointing devices in computing. How did the mouse come to be the most common pointing device?
The mouse, that unlikely “blob of plastic” was the original idea of Doug Engelbart (pictured) who was the head of the Augmentation Research Center (ARC) at Stanford Research Institute. ARC also invented the first word processor, hypertext, and groupware – all of which were first demoed in 1968, 15 years before Apple Computer introduced the Lisa and 13 years before Xerox PARC introduced the Star, the ancestor of the modern personal computer.
The mouse became the pointing device of choice for ARC
because it was proven, in user testing, to be the most efficient of all the
devices tested. There was nothing
elegant or particularly attractive about Engelbart’s mouse – he adopted it
because it required less user-effort and was more precise than anything else
they tested. Engelbart was not
interested at all in ease-of-use; he was interested only in improving the
efficiency with which humans interacted with computers.
The first mouse
Engelbart had ideas around human-computer interactions that he originally described in 1962 in his seminal paper, “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework.” This paper is the foundation of Engelbart’s philosophy on human-computer interaction and it led to the invention of the mouse, hypertext, windows, and groupware.
According to Engelbart, in order to achieve the best human-computer symbiosis – an objective that is central to his Augmenting Intellect philosophy – users need to be trained to use the most efficient computer artifacts (e.g. pointing devices, keyboards, etc.). Engelbart did not believe that computers should be easy for novices to use; he believed that people would require lengthy training in order to be truly effective. Specifically, he wanted computer interactions to be based on systems that, with considerable training, were the most efficient – not the easiest to use.
Engelbart 's philosophy is best embodied, in my opinion, in the
design of another device that he invented, the five-finger
keyboard. The keyboard had keys like a piano and was used by one hand. It was based on chords, sort of like
a guitar, where pressing combinations of buttons output certain characters.
The NLS keyset
The five-finger keyboard was used in combination with a three-button mouse so that your left hand was always on the keyboard and your right hand was always on the mouse. The two devices complemented each other and allowed extremely fast data entry and computer interactions. The problem was, Engelbart’s five-finger keyboard and mouse combination was very difficult to learn. Bill Moggridge describes the use of these devices together in Designing Interactions, as follows:
“This is how the interactions were designed. On the mouse, one button was to click, another was called command accept, and the third was called command delete. If you wanted to delete a word, you hit the middle button on the keypad, which was the letter d. It was d because it is the fourth letter in the alphabet and this was a binary coding, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16. If it was the letter f, it was the sixth letter so you’d hit the 2 and the 4 keys at the same time.“
First demo model of Engelbart’s five-finger keyboard and mouse combination
Using the five-finger keyboard and the mouse together a user had access to an enormous amount of functionality – far beyond what you can do with the full QWERTY keyboard, mouse, and GUI systems of today. Sadly, however, the use of these devices in combination was simply too difficult. This was a recurring theme in Engelbart’s work: in order to use his computer systems you had to master the input devices, which took a lot of training. This is Engelbart’s Dilemma. His systems were far more efficient and potentially more powerful human-computer interfaces, but they were extremely difficult for novice users.
Today, human-computer interaction is focused on ease-of-use
and learnability. Ideally, people should be immediately effective with a
computer the first time they use it. The emphasis is on usability – without the
necessity of training. The exact opposite of Engelbart’s approach.
Engelbart’s dilemma is that his philosophy produced some of the best computer technologies of our age (e.g. mouse, windows, word processing, etc.), but the full realization of his vision is completely counter to way interaction designers think of computers systems today. In fact, Engelbart's belief in efficiency over ease-of-use places him in the fringe of computer interaction design today. That’s sad considering he’s done more for interaction design than any else I can think of.
Are Engelbart’s ideas about efficiency over ease-of-use completely crazy? I don't think so – not entirely. I once heard or read (I can’t remember which) that Engelbart compared his interaction system to that of the violin. In essence, he said that the violin is an awkward instrument for novices but that, with training, a good musician can create incredibly beautiful music. My son trained in the violin for a couple of years, and I can attest to the amount of practice it took to master even simple melodies, but I’ve also seen good students play music that moved me more than any other instrument I have ever heard. Perhaps, like the violin, people could reach a new level of synergy with computers if they followed Engelbart’s philosophy and focused on efficiency over ease-of-use.
The truth is we may never know if Engelbart is right,
because the computer is the province of the masses and not just expert
users. If we were designing a musical
instrument today, our focus on ease-of-use and learning would probably lead us
to the kazoo rather than the violin.
(This copyright notice supersedes the one auto-generated at the foot of this page.)
|Fibido 04/10/08 01:12:22 PM EDT|
I use the the Bluetooth Frogpad to do much the same as his keyboard. It uses chords too. I had to work on it for about 7 weeks before I was typing 30wpm. Now after a year, I can switch hands (I have a left and right frogpad) and use the mouse at the same time typing about 45 wpm. For reference, I type about 60 wpm on a full keyboard. I see a huge difference in normal day to day tasks. If I could split the mouse and keyboard across separate apps it would only get better.
|Eric Rickard 04/10/08 07:22:54 AM EDT|
It's great to see Doug's back in the news. There are few computer pioneers who remain relevant beyond their natural career span. Thanks for the article. I know that it's been a frustration of love for Doug to see so many of his ideas reamin in the archives. I encourage all new computer scientists and engineers to review Doug's early papers. It's a gold mine of ideas!
|Dorai Thodla 04/09/08 11:48:13 PM EDT|
Doug once mentioned that he trained his daughters when they were young and it did not take them long to learn it.
I think the Accordion keyboard did not get enough exposure for us to test out the theory whether it is more difficult to learn. Valerie Landau did a study with her students in CSUMB with some interesting results and has built several prototypes since then.
Have you seen teenagers texting? They use one hand, and type faster than we can on a qwerty keyboard.
The opencourse.org has some material on some of the CSUMB studies.
|Gardner Campbell 04/08/08 06:03:06 AM EDT|
Engelbart believed everyone should be striving toward just the capability and collective intelligence he outlined in his “Augmenting Human Intellect,” and he also believed that if we didn’t, we were surely doomed as a civilization.
|davidw 04/08/08 04:41:38 AM EDT|
Engelbart was concerned with tools for group collaboration, process hierarchies, and multi-level nesting of organizational knowledge. Take a look a his “mother of all demos” demo, which is indeed truly amazing. Here's the link: http://youtube.com/results?search_query=mother+of+all+demos&search_type=
|cgerrish 04/08/08 04:09:09 AM EDT|
I like Doug Engelbart as much as the next guy, but you’d think we could move beyond 1968, the icon, the mouse and the window.
Your homes and cars can be automated and self-serviced. Why can't your storage? From simply asking questions to analyze and troubleshoot your infrastructure, to provisioning storage with snapshots, recovery and replication, your wildest sci-fi dream has come true. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, will provide a ChatOps demo where you can talk to your storage and manage it from anywhere, through Slack and similar services ...
Mar. 28, 2017 07:00 PM EDT Reads: 4,436
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Lachapelle, CEO of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), will provide an overview of various initiatives to certifiy the security of connected devices and future trends in ensuring public trust of IoT. Eric Lachapelle is the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), an international certification body. His role is to help companies and individuals to achieve professional, accredited and worldw...
Mar. 28, 2017 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 819
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
Mar. 28, 2017 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 4,097
"delaPlex is a software development company. We do team-based outsourcing development," explained Mark Rivers, COO and Co-founder of delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Mar. 28, 2017 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 9,602
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
Mar. 28, 2017 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,082
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...
Mar. 28, 2017 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,174
SYS-CON Events announced today that Technologic Systems Inc., an embedded systems solutions company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Technologic Systems is an embedded systems company with headquarters in Fountain Hills, Arizona. They have been in business for 32 years, helping more than 8,000 OEM customers and building over a hundred COTS products that have never been discontinued. Technologic Systems’ pr...
Mar. 28, 2017 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 3,650
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Mar. 28, 2017 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 14,245
SYS-CON Events announced today that Loom Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2015, Loom Systems delivers an advanced AI solution to predict and prevent problems in the digital business. Loom stands alone in the industry as an AI analysis platform requiring no prior math knowledge from operators, leveraging the existing staff to succeed in the digital era. With offices in S...
Mar. 28, 2017 01:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,617
SYS-CON Events announced today that HTBase will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. HTBase (Gartner 2016 Cool Vendor) delivers a Composable IT infrastructure solution architected for agility and increased efficiency. It turns compute, storage, and fabric into fluid pools of resources that are easily composed and re-composed to meet each application’s needs. With HTBase, companies can quickly prov...
Mar. 28, 2017 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 3,134
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
Mar. 28, 2017 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 2,479
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud computing technologies. Ge...
Mar. 28, 2017 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 4,693
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buyers...
Mar. 28, 2017 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,720
SYS-CON Events announced today that Infranics will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Since 2000, Infranics has developed SysMaster Suite, which is required for the stable and efficient management of ICT infrastructure. The ICT management solution developed and provided by Infranics continues to add intelligence to the ICT infrastructure through the IMC (Infra Management Cycle) based on mathemat...
Mar. 28, 2017 10:45 AM EDT Reads: 3,309
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
Mar. 28, 2017 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,556
SYS-CON Events announced today that SD Times | BZ Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BZ Media LLC is a high-tech media company that produces technical conferences and expositions, and publishes a magazine, newsletters and websites in the software development, SharePoint, mobile development and commercial UAV markets.
Mar. 28, 2017 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 4,443
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and management into a ...
Mar. 28, 2017 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,254
Now that the world has connected “things,” we need to build these devices as truly intelligent in order to create instantaneous and precise results. This means you have to do as much of the processing at the point of entry as you can: at the edge. The killer use cases for IoT are becoming manifest through AI engines on edge devices. An autonomous car has this dual edge/cloud analytics model, producing precise, real-time results. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Crupi, Vice President and Eng...
Mar. 28, 2017 09:15 AM EDT Reads: 4,088
There are 66 million network cameras capturing terabytes of data. How did factories in Japan improve physical security at the facilities and improve employee productivity? Edge Computing reduces possible kilobytes of data collected per second to only a few kilobytes of data transmitted to the public cloud every day. Data is aggregated and analyzed close to sensors so only intelligent results need to be transmitted to the cloud. Non-essential data is recycled to optimize storage.
Mar. 28, 2017 08:15 AM EDT Reads: 3,190
"I think that everyone recognizes that for IoT to really realize its full potential and value that it is about creating ecosystems and marketplaces and that no single vendor is able to support what is required," explained Esmeralda Swartz, VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud at Ericsson, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Mar. 28, 2017 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 4,459