I found a very interesting paper called “Less is More (More or Less): Uncommon Sense and the Design of Computers” by William Buxton. The paper tackles the fact that from the perspective of design and usage models in computer technology, there has been little progress throughout the years. Quoting from the paper, “In the tradition of Rip van Winkle, a Macintosh user from 1984 who just awoke from a 17-year sleep would have no more trouble operating a “modern” PC than operating a modern car.”

I don’t agree with a lot of what the paper claims, but it’s still a very interesting read, and I do recommend you at least take a look at it.

Here is what interested me the most:

1) One of the most significant issues confronting computer users, according to the paper, is the problem of bridging the gap between the physical and virtual worlds- “For most activities, most current systems make it too difficult to move the artefacts back and forth between these two worlds, the physical and virtual. Hence, the relevant documents, designs, etc. are isolated in one or the other, or split between the two.”

I think that is an excellent point. I am one of those people who has spent plenty of time online in my life, and the boundaries between what is virtually real and what is actually real have long since disappeared, even when it comes to human intimacy. It’s really all very ironic. Technology has not yet enabled us to experience human intimacy through computers, so our minds automatically evolve to start feeling intimacy through typed words and virtual pool. Amazing.

2)Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors that can fit on a chip will double every 18 months. The graph simplifies this to simply state that there will be more technology tomorrow than there is today.
Below are two graphs studying the growth of functionality and the growth of technology:

God’s Law states that the capacity of human beings is limited and does not increase over time. Stated more simply, the law says that our neurons do not fire any faster, our memory doesn’t increase in capacity, and we do not learn or think faster as time progress. On the contrary- we get stupider until we die.

So what do we do when our mental capacity stay stable while technology sky rockets?

The paper goes on to explain that the root of our current design problems by relating the growth of functionality to human capability.

3) Another very interesting point introduced was the relation between convenience(multi-tool) and convenience(bulk). The research uses an important object in our popular culture- the Swiss Army Knife.

By virtue of having a range of tools such as a nail file, bottle opener, cork screw, scissors and a knife blade embedded in it, the Swiss Army Knife is a single device that can perform a wide range of functions. However, as the number of tools in the knife increases, so does its weight and bulk. The convenience, and thus the likelihood of carrying it around, are therefore reduced proportionally.

Like I said, it’s an interesting article. It’s worth a read if you have time. Read it here.