Saturday, July 29, 2006

A Brief History of the User Interface

This inspires me to write this...

A Brief History of the User Interface

In the beginning were mainframes and teletypes, the question mark prompt. Then came Commodore, Apple, Atari with screens 40 characters wide. Next, IBM, DOS and screens 80 characters wide. As far as user interface guideliness went, it was anarchy and everyone did everything differently. The Mac arrived, and with it came standardization. Hooray! The File and Edit menus are all the same in every application! Inspiration at Microsoft brought Windows.

The feature wars came and bloated the menus of applications beyond all comprehensible boundaries. In the aftermath, the only thing you could find were the File and Edit menus (with new and improved disappearing items designed to flummox Memory Game alumni and other freaks making mnemonic associations with spatial positioning). Customization became the hot new ticket, giving users the freedom to "unstandardize" their user interfaces in any way imaginable.

Experts continued to insist on standardization--at the same time reminding us that mature products diversify and succeed based on factors that are less technical and more emotional. And now things seem to be diverging more and more.

In the words of the eminent philosophers collectively known as Ratt...

Round and Round



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