understand computers now, i beg of you!

If any of you were wondering what Dr. David Reuben looked like I posted his picture above. I bring this up because I have one paramount argument against Theodor Nelson in his book. In the section, "Computer Lib," he seems to suggest that since the man above is not too ugly to know about sex, his lack of programing knowledge does not make him him unqualified to espouse about computers. Well Mr. Nelson, may I say the man above exudes class with his stripped pants, leather boots, and chair adorned with rich mahogany. So although I commend your qualifications, this is a failed comparison.

Now I bring this up underscore a point, I found little to dispute within Nelson's pieces, I enjoyed it very much. One object of our discussions over the past weeks that I felt was missing was the subject of usability. This concept is what I personally am most interested in and concerned about. In todays world where engineering far outpaces an ordinary persons ability to utilize it, advancement should be coming in the direction of how best to use technology, instead of just how powerful it can be made.

I thought Nelson's piece was able to identify some of the conflicting social instruments that stall such progress. A sense of arrogance amongst elite computer users, and a fear or misunderstanding amongst the computer illiterate. His description of the disconnect between the two groups sets the framework for how he believes the computer will eventually develop. Claiming, "People have legitimate complaints about the way computers are used, and legitimate ideas for ways they should be used, which should no longer be shunted aside" (304). He sees computers as a source of our wildest dreams, writing, "the technological realities of today are already obsolete and the future of technology is bound only by the limits of our dreams"(307). He challenges the elite, "Instead of devising elaborate systems permitting the computer or its instructional contents to control the situation, why not permit the student to control the system, show him how to do so intelligently, and make it easy for him to find his own way?"(313) He foresees a much more personal level of interaction, where, "Our screen displays will be alive with animation in their separate segments of activity, and will respond to our actions as if alive physically too" (317). A "mental unification" with computers, prompted by, "artful design" (321).

Although the author of the introduction seems to suggest this dispute within the tech community has ceased, I would strongly disagree. Microsoft Vista for example is an example of a mainstream product plagued by in-intuitiveness, that has not sought a "mental unification," unlike OSX or the Nintendo Wii, which choose usability over power user options. Nelson believes the goal of interaction, "should be nothing less than representing the true content and structure of human thought"(326). Companies like Apple and Nintento are making efforts but are by no means there. Nelson acknowledges that, "Current technicalities allow branching media-especially those associated with computer screens. And it is up to us now to design them"(325).

Finally, I was intrigued how the introduction noted that a copy of the book was given to an employee of Apple on their first day. Especially, since I drew strong similarities between Nelson's "Parallel text-face" to Apple's "time machine", and his ideal "getting around" to the "spaces" feature in Leopard. I can envision this text as Steve Job's Bible.