They say that fish cannot see the water.
Computers have always had a keyboard. Since Windows brought PCs into homes, screens have always had a graphical representation of a virtual ‘workspace’. This model has come across to mobile phones, which present us with a tinier desktop for us to jab around on.
Fifty years ago, the paradigm was born here at the ‘Augmented Human Intellect Research Center’, a concept so unfamiliar it could only be shown, not described, in what has become known as the “Mother of All Demos”.
In this paradigm, you have a means by which you can interact with this digital space.
A bridge between the real and the virtual, in the form of a pointer, the mouse, or with a smartphone – your finger touching the screen – like Morten Harket touching the mirror to an ‘other’ world in the video for A-Ha’s Take on Me.
The dominant interaction paradigm we’ve had since the dawn of the internet is pages on screens. That is to say flat paper substitutes, rendered as pages in a representation of the previous generation of technology. In its own time it was revolutionary, and not at all obvious — simply because we are used to it does not make it any more of a leap. That which is obvious in hindsight, rarely is in foresight.
The first coding I ever did was on a now defunct package, called HyperCard: the promise was that these were more than mere analogies of paper cards on a screen, they were “hyper” cards with “hyper” text that could be connected together, to skip and flip trans-dimensionally in a way never seen before.
This in itself was a proper mind-bender for people, and again it is hard now to understand the shock of a new paradigm released upon the world.
And so it has continued for 25 years or more, that device looks into a virtual room, a workspace, or a desk-top, and you have a digital representation of your hand, that reaches through the screen through which you can touch and move things, along with an old fashioned typewriter stuck to the front, where you can write on a representation of piece of paper.
Sounds a bit weird when you write it out like that.
It wasn’t always intended to be such, during the 1990s there was a wild and wonderful selection of “hypermedia” that would be soon travelling down the information superhighway, virtual reality was a promise in 1991 that was coming very soon, even then.
Each generation of technology has to jump off from where the previous one left off. The first cars for instance were steered with a tiller arm, as the only other powered vehicles were boats, and they were controlled with rudder and a tiller, so that was the starting point.
However, we are now seeing the pages paradigm straining and breaking. Not just with all the other realities we are now promised, but also that data representation and data input methods are moving away from pointing and clicking and towards other types of sensory and haptic enhancement.
This man has a magnet embedded in his body which buzzes every time he faces north
It’s actually quite weird to constantly be talking to your house.