It’s OK, We’re Only Human

Last week I worked on migrating a number of sites from the Digital Media Lab at the Bard Graduate Center over to Reclaim Hosting.  One of the things I enjoy about doing migrations for folks is a get to see what they are working on. I fell down the rabbit hole of the history of computer user interface design with the brilliant Interface Experience exhibit that was produced for the 2015 exhibit The Interface Experience: 40 Years of Personal Computing. The exhibit was curated by Kimon Keramidas, then Assistant Professor and Director of the Digital Media Lab—now a professor at NYU.

The Interface Experience

The Interface Experience

I learned more about the “Osborne effect” a term which refers to the unintentional flattening of current sales by the premature announcement of future products. This is what killed the Osbourne “luggable” computer. I learned about Aldus Pagemaker, the first software of its kind that gave birth to the term “Desktop publishing.” I then got sucked into the early history of interface design at Xerox Parc, in particular the Office Alto. I was struck by the commercial for the Office Alto that seems fairly consistent with our vision of a sophisticated computer system 40 years later. And the nod in the following commercial to AI and the Siri-like future we currently inhabit is pretty amazing. How did they know?!

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3 Responses to It’s OK, We’re Only Human

  1. MBS says:

    Love this kind of stuff. Wish I’d known about the exhibit and gone to see it!

    I have my Palm Pilot which still works flawlessly. It was such as simple and amazing interface (built around clickable apps), and the custom character recognition alphabet called, Graffiti was so satisfying to use and worked really well.

    I have bust that thing out and make some remix pieces with it. Would be fun.

    • Jim Groom says:

      Exactly, I had an Osbourne at UMW, but I never did bust it out and play with it. That thing was crazy. The other thing about the Interface Experience exhibit, at least the online version, is the way it pushes WordPress to the limit. I love what they did with that site.

  2. The interface experience exhibit link that has a strikethrough in your post – the link is just missing the first “i”
    Currently it links to “”. Add the missing ‘I’ and the link should work.

    I enjoy seeing futurists at work. This commercial is excellent.

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