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The Shape of Computers to Come

An article on Slashdot about some graphics-pen based desktop software called ‘BumpTop’ started me thinking again about interface design (see ‘Welcome to Userville’). But then my thinking started to run ‘well I wrote that post about software design, better think of something else’. I had to think outside the box – literally.

Because outside the software-displaying boundaries of the computer screen is the computer itself. What does it consist of? Typically a screen, a keyboard, a mouse and a box of tricks with a medusa-head of wires popping out the back. Tech types will tend to view the box of tricks under the desk as the computer itself, and its attendant attachments merely tools plugged into the computer. Non-technical types will often refer to the screen as being the computer – after all, that’s where everything happens.

Well I think the whole caboodle needs to be present before you call it a personal computer, and it strikes me that this bitty existence is a bit strange, a bit… underdeveloped. OK, so you have immense power through the ability to get a fancy mouse or a massive screen, but as personal computers continue to move into being consumer items, for heaven’s sake the last thing consumers need is complexity. A bit of choice is good, yeah, but if people are going to buy a PC and not change anything, why have a separate monitor and keyboard and mouse and all that?

I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of those Apple style combo-computers, where the monitor and main box become as one – and not just because Apple set fashion and are thus copied left right and center. Once those linking wires are got rid of, perhaps we could have some kind of holographic keyboards, and control the pointer by just wiggling our fingers on the desk?

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