Origins of Common Interaction Devices

Probably the most obvious, and widespread, personal computer user interfaces today are the mouse, keyboard, and graphical user interface (GUI).

The mouse was invented in 1964 by Doug Engelbart. It wasn't really coupled with a PC, however, until 1973 when it was released along with Xerox's Alto computer. Although the PARC wasn't immediately successful, since then the mouse has been a standard of the human-computer interface.

The QWERTY keyboard first came into the public eye in 1872 on an ackward machine called the "Type-Writer." The actual letters on the keyboard were designed so that the most popular letter combinations - such as 'TH' and 'QU' - were not next to each other. This prevented the typewriter from getting clogged and stuck. Although Professor August Dvorak of Washington State University invented a more user-friendly configuration, called the Dvorak keyboard, in 1932, the QWERTY keyboard was already standard practice. With the first word processing systems in 1972, and with the release of the Alto PC in 1975, the QWERTY keyboard was firmly established in the technological world that it still inhabits.

The Dvorak Keyboard Configuration

The graphical user interface came into being in the 1970s. The Xerox Alto in 1973 included a graphics display, but the first real visual interface wasn't fully developed until 1981 with the Xerox Star: it included double-clickable icons and windows. Apple then released the first truly successful GUI in 1983. This spawned the GUIs that we see today.

HCI in Academia

Human-Computer Interaction as a academic field has also evolved greatly in the past few decades. In the 1960s and 1970s, the subject consisted mostly of computer graphics, ergonomics, industrial engineering, and cognitive psychology. There was no real HCI specialization offered; instead, HCI was presented as a topic within other courses. Teaching material was mostly teacher-driven, with little overlap between the many different aspects of HCI.

In the 1980s, HCI expanded to include different applications in social sciences, anthropology, and linguistics. Individual classes in HCI began to be offered, and specialization began. Books on the topic became more numerous. From 1990 to 1995, HCI began to focus more in graphic design and communications. Specialization continued to grow, but different sub-fields began to fragment off as HCI gained more breadth. As the demand for HCI training increased (especially for graduates), HCI educators networked their resources, and more books and modules on HCI came out.

Recently, HCI has integrated into computer science and psychology at the undergraduate level. The emphasis is mostly on graphic and industrial design. Research has also increased.

Hiltzik, Michael. Dealers of Lightning.