Friday, June 17, 2005

Computers as appliances

Wild flowers in my yard In a non-computer environment, where do you view photographs? You might view photos sitting in your living room or out on the side porch. You might show off pictures over dinner or even at a ballgame. Now that we are taking digital pictures and e-mailing them, we tend to look at photographs not as we engage in conversations with friends and family, but in front of the computer. Is this where we want to be looking at photos?

Last week at the Special Libraries Association conference, Bill Buxton talked about making computers appliances. At the moment, the computer -- that generally sits in its own defined space -- does lots of different activities that are normally associated with other areas of the house or office. It is a cookbook and recipe helper (kitchen), a photo album (living room), an news source (TV room), an entertainment device (TV/family room), a book (the side porch in the summer)... If a person was looking at cookbook in the kitchen, we would know what the person was doing. It would be obvious. When a person is sitting in front of a computer, we have no idea what the person is doing and what "room" that activity should be associated with. All we know is that the person is sitting in front of the computer. What we used to do in various rooms is now done in one -- the computer room.

Buxton suggested strongly that we create separate appliances that do these individual functions so that we can use the technology where that function normally occurs. Create an electronic cookbook (with the ability to search the Internet for recipes) that exists in the kitchen. Create a devices that can share and view photographs that you can have in the living room or TV room (or carry with you). Liberate these functions from the computer so that we can also be liberated from the computer room.


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