Re: User Interface Design

Subject: Re: User Interface Design
From: Sandy Harris <sandy -at- storm -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 17 Jan 2002 16:37:53 -0500

"White, Bonita" wrote:
> Hi all,
> I just became one of the members of the team that is designing the User
> Interface for our new software. ...

> * books or reference information that you recommend

Or anything else by Alan Kay. A web search turns up lots of it.

Back in the 70s, (early, before the Altair and Apple II, let alone the PC)
he had some wild ideas about what computers might become, centered in the
idea of "Dynabook", something as small and portable as a book, but with
more computing power than then-current mainframes. He suggested this would
need completely different software from then-standard Fortran, Cobol and
batch job entry on punch cards.

Many people thought he was crazy. I'm not sure the microprocessor had
even been invented when he started this.

Xerox gave him a team to build that software. They called it both the
language and the environment Smalltalk. Both have been quite influential.

Apple were one of several companies that got copies. They based the Mac
design on the Smalltalk environment: desktop metaphor, windows, mouse...

The language was also quite influential. It introduced the notion of
"object-oriented" programming, which is now pretty widespread. In
particular, C++ is basically C with object-oriented extensions. Hard
core users of either C or Smalltalk tend to see it as a kluge, but
it has become a very important language.

So I'd say read everything by Kay that you can find. One paper I
found quite intriguing was from the mid-80s when he was at Atari.
He suggested that the single most important decision in software
design is choice of metaphor, e.g. the desktop in his earlier
work, a virtual reality science museum in that paper.

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User Interface Design: From: White, Bonita

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