Human Computer Interaction

What is Human Computer Interaction?

If you have heard this term a lot, I mean a lot (LOT) recently then you might be thinking it’s some fancy word for something complex in AI or machine learning field(At least, I thought so). Well, it’s not. Human computer interaction is the study of how people interact with computers and to what extent computers are or are not developed for successful interaction with human beings. When I say computers are developed for successful interaction; it is not related to the any hardware aspect of the computer. It is a user interface, a GUI with which we humans interact with computers.

HCI is a broader discipline that encompasses multiple areas of research and practice. It is a discipline which involves study of areas such as Design, cognitive science, Ergonomics, Linguistics, Human Factors, and Ethnography along with computer science.

Birth of HCI: How did it all start?

In July of 1945, Vannevar Bush, vice-president and dean of engineering at MIT. Bush wrote an article for the Atlantic Monthly, later reprinted in Life, called “As We May Think”. He outlined a vision for information technologies that augmented people’s intellectual abilities. He also wrote an interactive desk, a system called memex. Key to the memex idea was all the available information would be available on desktop. Bush’s memex vision invents hypertext: which could store, save the information and shared. The desk would not suffice for the problem of carrying it everywhere. So Bush imagined that, in the future, you’d wear a camera, right in the centre of your head, like a third eye, and use it to capture stuff. And he worked out a design that made it as easy as possible to take pictures, so there’re no dials or settings to fiddle with. As with the memex desk, the details turned out differently; but the core vision was right on target. Today, for example, there are more than a billion camera phones that people carry with them. So, the idea and process of providing an efficient interface to computers started with Grace Hopper’s invention of first compiler to graphical user interface many more years later.

Later, in the 1970’s Alan kay built a prototype oh how a personal computer with real graphical user interface would look like. And in the year 1981, Alan along with his colleagues at Xerox PARC put together a system which was released called STAR, a window based graphical user interface with folders and icons and mouse.

Why HCI?

Being such an interdisciplinary field, I always find designing the most important and crucial part. Human centered design helps the people to carry on computer interaction with ease and gives the user a sense of satisfaction of completing a task without any hassle. Graphical user interfaces have put computing on hundreds of millions of desks, enabling us to do things like create documents and share photos, interact with family and find information. Conversely, bad design costs time, money and lives. Medical devices, airplane accidents and nuclear disasters are just a few domains where bad user interfaces have caused serious injury even debts. Let’s make everyday a better one by creating good design to help people and society. After all, a good design is not how it looks or feels but how it works!