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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Point, click

Reading through the booklet that Apple inserted in a 1984 issue of Newsweek promoting the launch of the Macintosh, this passage, extolling the mouse, is striking:
To tell Macintosh what you want to do, you simply move the mouse until you're pointing at the object of function you want.

Then click the button on top of the mouse, and you instantly begin working with that object. Open a file folder. Review the papers inside. Read a memo. Use a calculator. And so on.

An ad that has to explain to people what a mouse is! The tagline on that page is "If you can point, you can use a Macintosh, too." Only 20 years ago...


LJ said...

This made me wonder exactly when the mouse was invented, because I seemed to remember reading that it was used at this research center PARC in the 60's or 70's. Turns out it was invented in 1963. So it took about 20 years to get on the market.

That wikipedia article about PARC and the Dynabook sent me off looking at other interesting things. The guy behind it, Alan Kay, who sort of led the invention of the GUI has some interesting thoughts on education and computers. I couldn't agree more with his menu vs. food analogy he uses. Part of his idea with the Dynabook was that they weren't sure how to teach adults how to use it, so instead they'd aim it at children and let them grow up with and shape it as they did. Here's yet another page, an interview with him, which looks interesting but I haven't read yet.

LJ said...

Had to share this bit, from my "interesting thoughts" link above:

"Two hundred years ago the Federalist papers – essays by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay arguing for ratification of the U.S. Constitution – were published in newspapers in the 13 colonies. Fifty years later the telegraph and its network shifted the goals of news from depth to currency, and the newspapers changed in response. Approximately 100 years after that, television started shifting the emphasis of news from currency to visual immediacy.

Computers have the same drawbacks as other media, and yet they also offer opportunities for counteracting the inherent deficits. Where would the authors of the Constitution publish the Federalist papers today? Not in a book; not enough people read books. Not in newspapers; each essay is too long. Not on the television; it cannot deal with thoughtful content. On computer networks? Well, computer displays, though getting better every year, are not good enough for reading extended prose; the tendency is to show pictures, diagrams and short "bumper sticker" sentences, because that is what displays do well.

But the late 20th century provides an interesting answer to the question: transmitting over computer networks a simulation of the proposed structure and processes of the new Constitution. The receivers not only could run the model but also could change assumptions and even the model itself to test the ideas. The model could be hyperlinked to the sources of the design, such as the constitution of Virginia, so that "readers" might readily compare the new ideas against the old. (Hyperlinking extends any document to include related information from many diverse sources.) Now the receivers would have something stronger than static essays. And feedback about the proposals – again by network – could be timely and relevant."

teague said...

That is pretty interesting stuff. Links in to my comps topic, if you remember that.

Even though people do spend time talking about the effect of these technological changes, I'm convinced that almost everyone underestimates the pervasive effect they have in the way we live and the way our society works, especially in the long run.

And your Wikipedia odyssey is one example, of course...