Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New and cool computer/life inferfaces

Having started as an Apple head, moved to windows because of necessity and slowly been moving to Linux for philosophy, I've lived the desktop metaphor almost my entire computer literate life. It made sense, it makes sense. It was a great way to get novices comfortable with interacting with technology and integrate it into our everyday life. There are very few hardcore purists who prefer the "command line" to get things done and I admire them for that but being a visual thinker (when I try to understand or explain things to others I'm always thinking about how to represent the idea in a visual form - diagrams, pictures, cartoons, motion, flow). The desktop metaphor was my kind of interface and not nearly as intimidating.

However, it can be argued that today the metaphor is being stretched beyond usefulness and may actually be hindering and limiting our ways of thinking about information, life and that all important human element of social interactions. To be fair, the desktop GUI was developed during a period of time when computer resources were at a premium and you you usually took a performance hit to implement this approach. The serious gain in productivity from the intuitiveness of the interface made up for this hit big time though. Any improvements in the desktop metaphor since introduced my Apple in 1984 have been largely cosmetic or incremental (in my opinion).

I just came across this post over @ slashdot that really got me excited. Finally an GUI that updates the desktop metaphor to more closely resemble your real life desk with all the benefits of individual, idiosyncratic organizational techniques we all use and the ability to rapidly organize, prioritize and reorganize in a more systematic fashion. I found this 5 minute talk on the "bumptop" really cool (and will be checking it out over Xmas:) )but there are other excellent ideas that can be looked at here. Enjoy!

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