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Jef Raskin’s The Humane Interface

from the can-there-be-a-truce-between-humans-and-computers? dept.
Senior Associate DickKarpinski writes "Jef Raskin's new book, The Humane Interface, is just out and everybody who cares to understand why computers are so hard to use, and how to fix them, should read it." Why should we care? The day is coming fast when the line blurs between computers and the human brain. If you'd prefer not to get that intimate with today's software, we need to get this straightened out soon. This book was found very useful by Foresight chairman Eric Drexler, and quite a few others who got it as a freebie at the Gathering, courtesy of Dick (thanks, Dick!). Senior Associate DickKarpinski continues:

I've spent two or three years pressing Jef to finish the book. He did, eight times. I've marked up manuscripts in detail, noting flaws and unclarities which Jef has fixed beautifully.

The biggest rewrite recently removed the personal stories which I loved and thus could not tell him to remove; others did that.

I believe that the book will make you a much better critic of computer systems. Further, it's liable to change the face of computing, quite literally. Jef did that before. He invented the Macintosh.

When you analyze what Jef has done, you see that this is a magnum opus. First, he gathers the most relevant material from cognitive psychology and other fields. That would be enough for a good textbook.

But he goes further. He unifies the concepts and even recreates the formulas to show how closely related they are. And he creates new formulas to capture more of human interface considerations in mathematically precise form. And he shows exactly how to apply those formulas to real situations. That would be more than enough for a truly great textbook.

But he goes further. He describes a system which behaves as though a dozen or so of the axioms of humane interfaces were respected. And he describes a real, commercial system which used many of these ideas, complete with screen shots. You wouldn't believe the rapidity with which untrained executives can become fully trained and competent with a huge hospital information system, so I won't say. Read the book. Now.

But if such dramatic improvements are possible in that context, consider the effect on the information economy if computers became that easy to use and friendly in general. The entire economy would take off like a rocket! Everybody would smile when they think of their computer.

So I want someone to call his bluff and contract with him to create a humane system. He seems to think he knows how to do it in about a year. If such an angel were truly beneficent, she would then put the result under Larry Wall's Artistic License. Now who will give him the million dollars to test whether Raskin really can deliver a truly humane interface that people can actually learn and use?

Dick Karpinski dick@cfcl.com The world's largest leprechaun.
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If you got a copy of this book at the recent gathering, it's because I arranged for it. If you don't want to keep it, please send it to me or give it to someone who ought to read it. If you like, contributions to this writer or to the author to support such acts are not turned away.

Please send comments about the review or the book to me or to JefRaskin@aol.com or both.

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