Classics in HCI: Research Papers Critical to the Field of Human-Computer Interaction

When we think of “classics” in human-computer interaction, the first to pop into our minds might be “The Mother of all Demos” — Douglas Engelbart’s 1968 computer demonstration of a personal computer hardware and software system, including tools such as the computer mouse.

But as it turns out, there is a plethora of classic papers, beginning in 1955, that have influenced the field of human-computer interaction as we know it today.

After enrolling in Harvard’s CS 191: Classics of Computer Science with Harry Lewis, I spent a good portion of time each week reading — as the syllabus promises — papers every computer scientist should have read. One week in particular was focused on “computers for people,” which got me thinking: what are the papers that every HCI researcher, student, or industry member should have read?

Below is a list of compiled HCI classics, with links to PDFs, sorted chronologically. I sifted through hundreds of HCI papers to curate the list below; while the list is by no means extensive, it is hopefully rather complete. Happy to hear recommendations of other classic papers you think should be included on this list!

1955, Newell: “The Chess Machine: An Example of Dealing With a Complex Task by Adaptation.”

1960, Licklider: “Man-Computer Symbiosis.”

1965, Nelson: “A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing, and the Indeterminate.

1970, McCarthy: “The Home Information Terminal.”

1979, Thacker, McCreight, Lampson, Sproull, Boggs: “Alto: A Personal Computer.”

1981, Al-Awar, Chapanis, Ford: “Tutorials for the First-Time Computer User.”

1982, Kasik: “A User Interface Management System.”

1982, Smith, Irby, Kimball, Harslem: “The Star User Interface: An Overview.”

1983, Norman: “Design Principles for Human-Computer Interfaces.”

1983, Shneiderman: “Direct Manipulation: A Step Beyond Programming Languages.”

1985, Gould, Lewis: “Designing for Usability: Key Principles and What Designers Think.”

1988, Norman: “The Design of Everyday Things.”

1990, Nielsen, Molich: “Heuristic Evaluation of User Interfaces.”

1992, MacKenzie: “Fitts’ Law as a Research and Design Tool in Human-Computer Interaction.”

1993, Nielsen, Landauer: “A Mathematical Modeling of the Finding of Usability Problems.”

1997, Bergman, Johnson: “Towards Accessible Human-Computer Interaction.”

1998, Horvitz, Breese, Heckerman, Hovel, Rommelse: “The Lumière Project: Bayesian User Modeling for Inferring the Goals and Needs of Software Users.”

The entire Google Folder drive of these PDFs can be found here.