New Geographic Interfaces Introduce World to Desktop

By Fischer, Laurence M. | THE JOURNAL RECORD, February 16, 1995 | Go to article overview

New Geographic Interfaces Introduce World to Desktop


Fischer, Laurence M., THE JOURNAL RECORD


When you're staring at the computer screen, it sometimes seems as if all innovation began and ended in or near Palo Alto, Calif., in the 1970s.

As most students of information science know, the windows and pull-down menus first commercialized in Apple Computer's Lisa and Macintosh machines and later in Microsoft's Windows software were invented at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center.

The companion mouse was conceived just up the road at SRI International, in Menlo Park, at roughly the same time.

To be sure, the software's desktop metaphor, with its file folders, documents and icons representing their paper equivalents, was a vast improvement over the command-line interface of earlier computer software.

But using it has never been as intuitive as its proponents claimed, or there would be no need for "Windows for Dummies" and countless other help books. And the desktop metaphor becomes much less adequate when users venture off the desktop, onto a local area network or the Internet.

Enter the "geographic interface," which attempts to depict objects from the real world _ or at least some circumscribed part of it, like your office. The first of these products to reach the market was Magic Cap, from General Magic Inc., which serves as the operating system and user interface on both Sony's Magic Link and Motorola's Envoy, two portable computing and communications devices.

Another was the opening screen for Apple's eWorld online service, which aside from this nod to geographic interfaces is otherwise very similar to text-and-icon services like America Online.

But perhaps the most ambitious implementation to date of a geographic metaphor is Novell Inc.'s Corsair technology, which has been demonstrated at a few industry conferences and is expected to reach the market sometime in the fall.

Corsair, which is embodied in a navigation tool called Ferret, presents a three-dimensional, photographic color image of a user's work space, with a desk, card file, file cabinet and other commonly used tools. The image changes appropriately when one leaves the desktop.

Click on the printer, for example, and you see the front of a printer just like yours, with a status display to show if it is turned on or if the paper is jammed. Click on the file cabinet, and you gain access to other file-server computers located on your local area network.

Click on the door to leave your office and head for the other resources in your corporate environment, like personnel files. To get to the Internet? Jump out the window, for an aerial view of information-generating sites represented as buildings.

Unlike Microsoft's much ballyhooed Bob, which the company calls a "social interface," Corsair is not aimed at the complete neophyte. And at least in its early incarnations, it won't be for the home user, either.

There are no animated rabbits or rats to guide the user through tasks, and no built-in application software, so one still needs to know the underlying command sequences of standard programs and operating systems. Corsair's value lies in helping users navigate complex networks.

"The place where geographic metaphors matter is when the complexity of the system begins to approach the complexity of the real world," said Paul Saffo, director of the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, Calif. "That's one reason it makes a lot more sense for a networking company" _ like Novell _ "to do this than a software operating system company" like Microsoft.

As the leader in network software, Novell has a moderately self-serving vision of computing's future: Everyone will be on one network or another, and most likely on several.

At a recent industry conference, Robert Frankenberg, Novell's chairman, chief executive and president, said he believed that consumer PCs will follow their corporate counterparts onto the Net.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

New Geographic Interfaces Introduce World to Desktop
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.