Information Technology Reference
1.2 HCI and ubiquitous computing
In the past decade, the main goal of the research in the field of ubiquitous
computing (UC) has been the support to humans in their everyday life
In the Weiser's vision, a great variety of heterogeneous devices with regard
to their shape or use will be at the disposal of the user . Such devices will be
aimed either to be 'personal' or 'embedded' in the environment.
Some common UC devices are personal digital assistants (PDAs), tablet
personal computer (PC), laptops and electronic dashboards. The research
activity is oriented to devise more and more sophisticated objects and to their
integration through unwired communication channels.
1.2.1 Classic HCI
Till 1960s, when the computer began to be a commercial product, the user
was not an autonomous subject in the interaction with the machine.
Computer users were go-betweens from the actual stakeholders interested
in data analysis to the machine used to elaborate data. The computer was
also passive because it did not posses a 'face', there wasn't a screen yet.
Cathode ray tube (CRT) video terminals were introduced in 1971; they
replaced printers as the main output device of the computer allowing to
present information very quickly.
Nevertheless, the interface layout was poor on the screen also. Interfaces
lacked in ergonomics; they were difficult to learn and use and only a few
specialized people could use them. Moreover, different applications had
different interfaces, thus making more and more difficult the learning phase
in using a software package.
PCs appeared in 1981. It is the bridge between 'centralized' and
'distributed' use of computing systems. When using a PC, the user has a
private interaction with her own system that is completely under her control.
Moreover, floppy disk and hard disk technologies allow storing a virtually
unlimited amount of information.
The PC entered the everyday life as a common device for unskilled users
also. In turn, a growing need arose for more simple and efficient computer
interfaces than in the previous decades.
At first, the use of the menus involved the possibility to assign a user's
choice to each row. Commands could be issued very simply by checking the
positions in a menu through a cursor. Menus introduced a double information
coding: both 'spatial' and 'verbal'.
The introduction of the mouse increased the importance of spatial
information coding. The user can now execute actions directly on the screen