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Human Computer Interaction, otherwise known as computer human interaction, is an intersection of various fields. It refers to a study of how human beings relate to and use computers. This study helps to understand how friendly computer programs are to people, and also to develop more user-friendly computer programs. HCI mainly focuses on human relations with computers only and not any other types of machines. The term came to be widely known and used in 1983, after research and book writing by Newell, Card, and Moran. HCI describes the virtual space that is available for people when using computers. A lot of studies have taken place in developing the new and better computer programs. Several events have also unfolded in the history of HCI. There exists a number of basic interaction software that has been developed over the years. First and foremost was the development of manipulation of graphic objects directly in 1963. This work was first done by Ivan Sutherland. He demonstrated this new idea using his sketch pad. He was able to show that the objects could be moved by the use of a light pen. His idea was developed in Lincon labs, making it possible to produce a much better program. By 1968, the program had included how objects could be chosen in the interface, opened and how to manipulate them. Other researchers also played a role in development of Ivan’s original idea, and finally in 1981, a number of companies were able to embrace the new technology like Apple, Xerox, and Macintosh (Heim, 2008).
The second event in HCI history was the development of the mouse in 1965 at the Stanford research library. This project was funded by different organizations and it was in an effort to get an affordable substitute for the light pens. The usages of the mouse as an input device became more popular in the 1970’s. Engelbart also helped people to understand how the mouse is used by showing its use in 1968. The mouse came to be commercially used after being introduced in the market by various companies like Apple and Xerox, among others (Heim, 2008). The third major development was that of Windows in 1968, mainly by works from Engelbart. Various researches were also able to show the idea of tiled Windows. This idea was also suggested and supported by Alan Kay. Through a series of research and studies, better version of Windows was developed and was first commercialized in 1979. A number of application software has also been developed over the years. These include drawing programs developed in 1963 with the help of Ivan Sutherland’s original work; development of text editing, spreadsheet, video games, hypertext, and computer aided design (Caroll, 2001). All these show various milestones and changes that HCI has gone through.
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The Interaction Paradigms
Computer paradigm refers to a widely known theoretical frameworks and views about the computer usage. Its study helps people to understand how various user-friendly computer systems can be developed, used and their usage measured. There has been a number of paradigm shifts about computer usage, with all these indicating arrival of new ideas on computer usage. In HCI, there are two main paradigms: interaction paradigm and experience paradigm. Interaction paradigm focuses on the physical interactions of the people using the computer. The main paradigms in interaction paradigm include mobile, networked, personal, and large scale computing. Using Heim’s 5W+H (what, where, who, why, how), it is possible to compare two of these interaction paradigms. The following depict a comparison between the two paradigms namely; large scale computing and mobile computing.
Large scale computing refers to a paradigm in which computers are fixed at a major station and connected to each other from a main computer. Generally, mainframe computers are less portable.
What/ how: in this case, a mainframe computer is used, and it is host to other computers which are connected to it. At first, these computers used batch memory. They were later replaced by mini computers, and then super computers.
When/ where: most of the computers are mainly owned by governments and research institutes.
Who /why: due to the high cost of the large scale computers, they are only used to carry out research sponsored by government or those done in government institutes. The computers are also handled by only highly trained scientists or technicians.
Mobile computing entails the use of mobile devices, such as PDAs and laptops to process data and access information. In the current era, mobile computing has become a de rigueur.
What/ how: Unlike the case of large-scale computing, where only mainframe computers feature, there are portable devices that include: laptops, tablets, smart phones, and MP3 players are highly portable, and thus, so helpful for people working in the field. They use LCD screens. The tablets are touch sensitive and are also able to recognize handwritings. The main problem with usage of these devices is their small size and limited battery life (Caroll, 2001).
Where/ when: due to their portability, these devices make access to information and connecting to people easier. Through Bluetooth or infra-red light, people can exchange information. Wi-Fi’s and hotspots make access Internet easily.
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Who/ why: the portability of mobile computing devices enables people to do different tasks anywhere they please. These devices, especially phones, are used by almost everyone in the modern world. Tablets and laptops are especially used by business people to do tasks outside the office. Additionally, they are also used by people doing research to connect to the main database in their laboratory (Caroll, 2001).
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