Archive for September, 2007

With knobs on

Friday, September 28th, 2007

Reading Sutherland’s incredible 1963 Sketchpad thesis I was struck by the following passage:

We will issue specific commands with a set of push buttons, turn functions on and off with switches, indicate position information and point to existing drawing parts with the light pen, rotate and magnify picture parts by turning knobs, and observe the drawing on the display system.

Where are my knobs and buttons? Why is the great advance of recent decades in widely available physical human-computer interaction the click-wheel mouse?

Sutherland opens his thesis by observing:

Heretofore, most interaction between men and computers has been slowed down by the need to reduce all communication to written statements that can be typed; in the past, we have been writing letters to rather than conferring with our computers.

Isn’t it time the epistolary model of interaction evolved?1,2


1. Yes, I know this seems at odds with my admiration for CLIM.

2. Yes, I am being deliberately provocative – this is the web – but I can imagine zipping through a document accepting and rejecting edits with my PS2 control being a lot more productive (and fun) than the mouse+keyboard experience.