Today sees the 40th anniversary of a rather special mouse (and my personal thanks to Chris Yapp for his encyclopaedic memory).
On 9 December 1968 hi-tech visionary Douglas Engelbart first used one to demonstrate novel ways of working with computers.
As well as the military, these days of course one can often look to the computer gaming industry to understand what the new innovations for the mass market might be. 40 years on and the human computer interface has certainly advanced. The Nintendo Wii remains a revolution in human computer interface technology and innovations in the You Experience continue at pace.
Sometimes referred to as a brain-computer interface, Emotiv Systems describes their technology as a revolutionary new headset for human computer interaction. However you describe it, the Emotiv EPOC is one of the first commercially available computer interfaces that responds to the electric signals generated by thought.
Or if you prefer the human touch perhaps Microsoft Surface is for you – facilitating human interaction with surfaces with digital content through natural hand gestures, touch and physical objects.
And whatever the physical interface, seeing is believing. So before trying to write the thousand words many times over to describe the experience, a simulation or two supported by technologies such as iRise and a visualisation approach can not only enhance the business outcome but will tend to save 10-25% of full lifecycle development and run costs too.
It’s reported that Dr Engelbart wanted computers to act as helpers that augmented human intelligence and enabled people to operate far more efficiently and productively than they would without such tools.
If information is the lifeblood of business and government then perhaps the human interface with it is its consciousness.
While the innovations are breaking down traditional barriers between people and technology, we are still far away from their everyday application, and from Engelbart’s vision of computers acting as helpers that augmented human intelligence. Too often we see people serving technology as opposed to technology serving people. One of these tends to lead to intelligent sophisticated business behaviour, and one of these doesn’t.
40 years on, while the mouse has always been the symbol of the user, perhaps over time as it gracefully matures beyond middle age, we may come to think of it more as a general symbol of technology serving people, and so as a symbol of corporate intelligence.
If you’re tackling a complex problem, looking at how the humans and the computers interact first, and how the business processes work second, might just reveal a pleasant surprise or two. And with the innovations around today it doesn’t take a Q-bomb to do it. Happy 40th!