Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

The Invisible Computer: Why Good Products Can Fail, the Personal Computer Is So Complex, and Information Appliances Are the Solution

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

The Invisible Computer: Why Good Products Can Fail, the Personal Computer Is So Complex, and Information Appliances Are the Solution

Article excerpt

The Invisible Computer: Why Good Products Can Fail, the Personal Computer Is So Complex, and Information Appliances Are the Solution Donald A Norman. Cambridge: MIT, i998, 302 pp. $25.

Information technology is now an integral part of our lives. Computers and other devices even make their way to the summits of mountains, the jungles of distant continents, and the small villages of third world countries. But according to Donald Norman, computers are cumbersome, overly complex, and di[double dagger]cult to use. The technology predominates rather than the service that it provides. Norman's goal is to eliminate the intrusive and unwieldy technology in favor of invisible information appliances, pieces of equipment that do one pre- cise task simply, easily, and well. (Norman might agree that the Apple iMac is a small step in the right direction.) In any case, he observes that the technological problems are fairly easy to overcome; the hard part is the change that must occur in the social, organizational, and cultural arenas.

In order to make his points concerning technology's flaws, the computer's problems, and the designer's insensitivity, Norman tells lots of stories-about Edison and his inventions, the early use of the personal computer, and cal for example. All of this presumably will help the reader understand the goal, which is a technology that derives from user needs, is centered, and not try to do so much that its use is prohibitively di[double dagger]cult. Design should reflect or enhance the pragmatic purpose of the device. Usage should be easy and self-evident and manuals will therefore be succinct or existent. appliances perform one task well and can be interconnected to other devices so that communication between and among various units is complete. …

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