In this module, we’ll discuss the field of human computer interaction or HCI, sometimes referred to as computer human interaction, or CHI. It is the study of how computers and humans interact and how we design computers to better support humans in that efforts. HCI is one of the fields that we’re going to look at it throughout the semester, we’ll do this several times.
The field of HCI has a few goals that are very important for us to keep in mind. First and foremost, HCI aims to try and make the world a better place through the use of easily accessible technology. It allows us to work to understand data that is being presented to us, and it helps people interact and communicate with one another using modern technology. But Finally, and most importantly, the major goal of HCI is to give people better control over the tools, computers or machines that we’re using in our daily lives.
So how do we do this? Important part of the field of HCI is studying and designing and applying all the things we learn about interactions between people in computers. Sometimes we study how people interact with computers. And sometimes we have to study how people interact with other people, and how we can bring those ideas to the computer. And so to do this, we end up using results from a lot of different fields, not just computer science, but the fields of cognitive and behavioral psychology, design, Media Studies, graphics, art, music, all of these things can go into the field of human computer interaction.
One of the pioneers of the field of HCI is Douglas Engelbart. In 1950, Douglas Engelbart had graduated college, but really had no idea what he wanted to do with his life. And so he set out to try and determine how he could have a greater impact in the world and came up with this really interesting idea that we’ll look at in just a second. But his ideas really lead to the field of human computer interaction as we know it today. And he’s responsible for it. Large part of how we use computers, I think you’ll find it really interesting to see the things that he came up with during his time. So as we talked about Douglas Engelbart was a student in the 1950s, and was really struggling to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. And so eventually he came up with this idea for a motivation to help him work in computer interaction. So first and foremost, Douglas Engelbart decided that he wanted to make the world a better place. That’s all well and good, but you really have to understand how to make that happen. And he realized that to make the world a better place, it required a large amount of organized effort. It wasn’t anything that one person could do on their own. So how do we get that organized effort, but we have to bring together the collective intellect of all the people in the world working to solve these really big problems. That is really the key. And so Douglas Engelbart realized if that process was somehow made easier, he could effectively boost the work of every person working on all of these large Scale world problems. And that is what led Douglas Engelbart to the field of computer science and HCI. He realized that if he could make modern computers more effective, more efficient and easier to use, that that would, in effect, boost the effort or everyone working on these problems, because it would allow them to come together and harness their collective intellect to put forth organized effort to make the world a better place. So as we said, computers are really the key here and that’s what Douglas Engelbart realized.
One of the greatest creations of Douglas Engelbart work is the computer mouse shown here. It’s the first example of a interaction device built specifically for a computer that really revolutionized how we interact with computers. He developed the computer mouse in 1967, while he was working on the design of a computer system called the online system or in Is that we’ll look at in just a second. And he originally patented it as an X Y position indicator for a display system in a video that will take Look at he actually jokes a bit about why it’s actually called a mouse today.
But as we said the mouse is just a small part of what Douglas Engelbart was working on. His true work revolved around the online system or in NLS computer system that he developed. The NLS was really the world’s first modern operating system to include features such as a mouse hypertext links that you could click on a raster scan video monitor that actually gave live feedback to the user, the ability to do screen windowing, where you could have multiple things on the screen at the same time, he was able to use that system to build presentation programs that are very similar to what we do with PowerPoint today. It allowed him to organize information in radically new ways that had never been seen before on a computer system. And it even allowed for collaborative editing and messaging, very similar to the tools that we use today on the internet.
And the amazing thing about this system was it was demonstrated in 1968 in what has been called the mother of all demos. Douglas Engelbart demonstrated all of the features of the online system during a single live demonstration in December of 1968. He assembled over 1000 computer professionals in an auditorium. And with double Douglas Engelbart sitting at the front at a computer console. He seamlessly demonstrated the power of his NLS system, showing new idea after new idea to these people. And he left his audience completely spellbound. And to this day, it still stands as one of the most important and most unique computer demos of all time. Oh, and by the way, he was actually using it to control a computer that was over 30 miles away. So it was done remotely. And to put this in context, remember that December 1968, is several months before we landed on the moon in July of 1969. So even though we were sending people to the moon, we’re in spacecraft that had less power than a graphing calculator. Douglas Engelbart was setting the stage for a computer lead to revolution in how people use computers today.
The best part about the mother of all demos is that a recording of it exists so that we can watch the whole thing even today. As we mentioned, he combined some real cool state of the art technology in this single demo. He used live video projection, he used teleconferencing and video conferencing. And for a lot of people in the audience, it was the first time they had even seen a live computer display something that we take for granted today. So on the next page, we’re going to take a look at a few short clips out of this mother of all demos, and we’ll have some short discussions about what exactly he’s showing on these clips.