3

Human-machine interaction

Man is a tool-using animal… Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.

Thomas Carlyle, 1833-4, Sartor Resartus, Bk 1, Ch. 5

The computer is a fast idiot, it has no imagination; it cannot originate action. It is, and will remain, only a tool to man.

American Library Association, 1964

It has already been stated that Human Factors/ergonomics is a discipline that seeks to maximise efficiency, safety and comfort by shaping the technology to the physical and psychological capabilities of the user. The technology’ is a generic term covering all devices from simple tools through to advanced, complex systems. Although it may be possible to design very simple devices in isolation, it is not possible to do this with more advanced technology. Other influences on its use can emanate from the design of the workplace, the environment and even the activities of the organisation. Hence, the human is subject to a number of interactions: the first of these, human-machine interaction, is considered here.


Humans and tools

Homo sapiens is a tool user. From the days when we were hunter-gatherers (around 5,000 years ago), we have been making tools and using and refining them to increase our chances of survival. The progression of stone tools to copper and then iron implements is one well-known low-technology example. It could be argued that the shaping of the handle of an axe might be viewed as one of the early applications of elementary ergonomics, i.e. designing tools to aid human-machine interactions and increase efficiency. Taylor’s work on shovel design outlined in Chapter 1 can be viewed as a similar application to this. Both are examples of products that are relatively simple manual tools. They tend to be used by humans singly and increasing

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Designing for Humans
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables viii
  • Figures ix
  • Preface x
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • 1 - Human Factors 1
  • 2 - Humans: Capabilities and Limitations 20
  • 3 - Human-Machine Interaction 38
  • 4 - Work Environments 70
  • 5 - Organisational Issues 97
  • 6 - Occupational Health 118
  • 7 - Safety 137
  • Epilogue 163
  • References 166
  • Author Index 202
  • Subject Index 207
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