Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 20th Jun 2016 22:58 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Speaking of the Xerox Alto - let's move on a few years and talk about the Xerox Star, its successor and, like the Alto, one of the most influential computers ever made. There's this great demo up on YouTube, where some of its creators walk you through the basics of using the Xerox Star, from basic filing, down to the included virtual keyboard which could display any keyboard layout you wanted - including things like Japanese or a math panel.

I love watching videos of the Xerox Star in action, because it shows you just how little the basic concepts of the graphical user interfaces we use every day - OS X/Windows or iOS/Android or whatever - have changed since the '70s, when Xerox invented all the basic parts of it. Of course, it has been refined over the decades, but the basic structure and most important elements have changed little.

Like still relying on shoehorning a timesharing punchcard mainframe operating system onto a phone, we still rely on the same old Xerox concepts of icons and windows and dialogs on our phones as well. Hardware has progressed at an incredibly pace - we have watches tons more powerful than 100 Xerox Stars combined - but software, including UI, has not kept up.

We should have better by now.

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RE[3]: Comment by ddc_
by tanishaj on Tue 21st Jun 2016 00:08 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by ddc_"
tanishaj
Member since:
2010-12-22

You can't expect software to become better if it is designed for less prepared users.


This statement seems backwards to me. I would expect software to improve (especially if we are specifically talking about interfaces and user experience) precisely BECAUSE it is designed for less prepared users.

If I am creating software for a user that has prepared himself through long hours of study and practice to understand and program the system, I can provide a very minimal set of services and still be useful. If I am creating software for somebody that is only willing to accept a few hours or a few minutes of training (or even none at all) then I am going to have to do a lot more work building software that takes on more responsibility for being useful to such a user. The more power I want to expose to unsophisticated users, the better my software needs to be.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by ddc_
by ddc_ on Tue 21st Jun 2016 00:26 in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by ddc_"
ddc_ Member since:
2006-12-05

I would expect software to improve (especially if we are specifically talking about interfaces and user experience) precisely BECAUSE it is designed for less prepared users.

I think precisely because of this attitude I can't find a mail client for my phone that would suck less then default mail client for my old Palm device.

See, different kinds of users require different sets of features. You can't possibly develop end user software that would be good enough for everybody without making it so complex that it would end up unmaintainable. Now, "App Store" model makes it more viable to develop for particular group of users: people who know nothing about tech and uninstall the app if are presented with choice where they have no firm understanding of the options.

Edited 2016-06-21 00:39 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 6

RE[4]: Comment by ddc_
by ebasconp on Tue 21st Jun 2016 17:08 in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by ddc_"
ebasconp Member since:
2006-05-09

The more power I want to expose to unsophisticated users, the better my software needs to be.


I disagree.

We should not want to expose more power to unsophisticated users, because that is like to giving a knife to a monkey. We should want to expose more power to users that want to be sophisticated, that want to learn how the software works, that base his software manipulation based on standard guidelines, not based on what seemed to be better for the software writer.

That is how the current society works: You do not want to give a truck to a kid, you do not want to give an airplane to a lawyer or the laws to an engineer; and at the same time, everybody needs to know how a semaphore works, what the red means, what track you should use when driving, what is the pedal you must push to activate the brakes, etc.

Current software (specially on phones and tablets) does not follow any rules, any guidelines, any quality criteria (in several cases); with functionality clipped or removed. Now to me, it is far easier to use a Windows application than a phone app (probably they are called "apps" instead of "applications" because they are not true applications, aren't they?)

Edited 2016-06-21 17:10 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[5]: Comment by ddc_
by darknexus on Tue 21st Jun 2016 17:26 in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by ddc_"
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

Why does everyone need to know how a semaphore works? That's just tech elitism. You need to know how to steer the car, not the details of how the engine uses the gasoline.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[5]: Comment by ddc_
by darknexus on Tue 21st Jun 2016 17:28 in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by ddc_"
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

Now to me, it is far easier to use a Windows application than a phone app

Depends. There are a lot of things I find easier on the iPad than I do in Windows. Not the phone though. That screen's too small.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[5]: Comment by ddc_
by dionicio on Tue 21st Jun 2016 20:37 in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by ddc_"
dionicio Member since:
2006-07-12

"...everybody needs to know how a semaphore traffic system works, maybe?"

If well traffic protocols have to learned by everybody, Not everybody needs to know how to drive a Fire Truck.

But ddc_ is also right: that wheel is a very good wheel, indeed. And no, I'm NOT stuck in the traffic. Neither my wheel is made of sticks. But still a wheel, you know.

Concepts are tremendously powerful, USABILITY side.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by ddc_
by dionicio on Tue 21st Jun 2016 20:57 in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by ddc_"
dionicio Member since:
2006-07-12

"The more power I want to expose to unsophisticated users, the better my software needs to be."

Load helicopter pilot program... Done.

Unsophisticated users shouldn't be given such powers.

[Because that power is not really on the User side, but on the Matrix'].

Reply Parent Score: 2