Living with Technology / Your 'touching' relationship with computers
Interacting with computers has come a long way over the years. From originally wiring circuit boards, to punched paper tape, to punched cards, to keyboards, to a mouse, sometimes speech and now touch, the way we interact with computers continues to evolve.
Screens used to be for just displaying information. From my perspective, the iPhone with its touch screen interface and only one main button changed the way people think about computers.
Not only did the iPhone eliminate a physical keyboard, but the screen became useful for more than just displaying information -- it became the primary way you interact with the computer.
Of course, since the iPhone's introduction, many other devices have come to market that invite us to touch them. After smartphones, tablets such as Apple's iPad and the myriad other tablets typically based on Google's Android software, have become extremely popular.
But the most recent introduction I've seen is Windows 8 and its Metro interface.
For those of you who haven't seen Windows 8, it's a whole new way of looking at personal computing. Instead of the typical Windows icons, there are "tiles" that appear on the screen and one can scroll left and right to see the tiles available.
When you click on a tile, it opens up a function, typically a program where you do your work.
Whether you like Windows 8 or not, it's an interesting change of direction for Microsoft and computing in general.
Microsoft has done a great job of making the interface similar across all of its products, including desktop, laptop and phones.
As I've worked with people who use Windows 8 as their primary interface, I have to say that it's best used with a touch screen. Interacting with Windows 8 with just a mouse is not as satisfying an experience.
My point is that touching computers is now mainstream. Apple's "gestures" years ago where you could use a touchpad to zoom, shrink and perform other functions led to the iPhone's touch screen. And now, Microsoft has made touching screens of more traditional computers mainstream.
I mentioned speech recognition earlier and it is still developing. There continue to be great advances in speech interfaces with computers, but it's still developing.
In the meantime, enjoy -- or be prepared to join -- interacting with computers using your hands. It's a way to interact with computers that is very satisfying.
Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org