Around 30 years ago, I picked up an orange rotary phone. There were phones all over my home as my father was a telecom-worker. I took this rotary phone apart, and then another, and then the clock radio, and then the giant cordless phone. When home computers arrived, I took those apart too. I took everything electronic apart. Dad was also a techie and a sci-fi fan, so I lived and breathed our grand vision of the future and the ethos of the technology we use today, including how our internet works — before we actually had the internet.
The Inescapable Truth
I embraced a life of digital technology, design, and life-long experimentation. Computers have been my greatest source of inspiration and, conversely, a continuous stream of angst. For my entire life, I could never shake the feeling that something was terribly wrong. Something about computers never clicked. Although I have worked professionally in digital software (UI/UX) design, programming, enterprise digital platforms/networks, interiors / architecture, and have embraced 3D digital design as the medium that will yield the future, there was always something off.
Through more than 15 years in technology, a pattern began to emerge. Over and over again, the same problems cropped up. At my largest engagement in the field, these patterns droned in my ears like a swarm of buzzing insects, with hundreds of people working on the same issues. In fact, thousands of people were solving the same rudimentary set of problems. Millions of dollars were being spent in a continuous cycle of fruitless research, design, and development.
My inescapable daily conclusion was always, “All these beautiful souls are wasting their entire lives trying to get to the bottom of something so obscured that no amount of money or volume of thinking would solve it. How can this be?”
Solving The Unsolvable
One day, not long ago, I had a chance to clear my mind of all the clutter and the profound motivation to finally decipher what exactly I felt was wrong. This was scary because it could mean that my life with technology might change. At first, I attempted to solve this problem inside our current digital paradigm. Was it a new operating system? Was it new hardware? Was it a chip that did not exist yet? Was it simply the mouse or the trackpad that needed to be fixed? Was it just simplification? All of these are troubling questions, but as it turns out, it was none of those.
What happened next changed me forever. I realized there was something itchy about the entire human computer interaction paradigm, which is closely tied to both the concept of the digital window and how we “touch” those windows with our fingers or the cursor on the screen.
Unexpectedly, a new interaction paradigm materialized right inside the old one. At first, I assumed it was all wrong, it would not scale, it would break down in every day life. I even had to take a few days to question my sanity. I then returned to the digital canvas, covered in diagrams, and all my silly fears subsided. It became clearer and clearer that this was not only a great idea, but that it was our natural next step. It became clear that this paradigm would change everything, forever.