Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum
Don't put words in my mouth! I initially made the point that mouse was in the labs. That point has now evolved to include the graphics display and software-- the GUI.
"Then you should be well aware that the mouse and other direct manipulation devices like the light pen were in development and would have been used in computing regardless of Apple. "
And you replied:
"Yes, but they didn't!"
The implication is that they never would have in the context of your response.
At that time, several other companies were offering pieces of the solution:
Yes, I pointed that out.
So, all the GUI components were available separately and in packages, It took the 1984 introduction of the Macintosh to make it popular and affordable. The Mac had fewer applications, smaller display, was relatively closed hardware and software, but it hit a sweet spot. The Mac survived, and the others are distant memories.
Again, you imply that if it not been for the Mac it never would have happened. My contention is that it would have happened through a different company. This isn't to take anything away from Jobs because he has been the driving force for usable computing.
All I meant to say was that Xerox and several others (including Apple) had the opportunity, and foresight to exploit the GUI... but for various reasons they didn't, and the Mac did!
Yes, and there's really room for one such success story. How many other companies equaled IBM during the mainframe era? How many other companies equaled DEC during the mini computer era? How many other companies equaled Sun during the workstation era? Yes, there were competitors but one market leader (Sun's a little weaker in this context perhaps).
Once you had Apple then GEM on the Atari or AmigaDOS on the Amiga is simply derivative. Same goes for Windows.
Yeah, that's the hindsight version. At the time, the story being told was that IBM execs had scheduled a meeting with Gary, but cooled their heels for several hours waiting for him to show up. Gary stiffed them and it pissed them off, so they left.
Based on my experience with IBM, they would only deal with the person at the top, and would not tolerate being kept waiting.
Given that I wasn't there, this is he said, she said with a bit of spin on the part of Bill Gates to boot. That DRI missed a historic opportunity is a given. That they had a potential redemption in GEM had there been no Apple is a possibilility you cannot discount with any "proof" beyond your own opinion.
Take out a sheet of 8 1/2 x 11" paper. Lay it on the table. It is nothing, a blank sheet. It conveys nothing, it has no content.
Now, with a few tools (pencil, pen, marker, paint, gesso, fingerpaint, glue, stamp & stamp pad, typewriter, printer, silk screen, etc.) you can add content.
You can use a computer with a GUI, keyboard and mouse to substitute for many (but not all) of the above tools.
Which can you not do with keyboard and mouse? Some are easier with direct manipulation...hence Wacom tablets and Cintiq. Then again, writing a novel length document is easier with a typewriter than a pencil.
There is a reasonable body of research into alternative input methods for text entry.
Now, visualize an object with about the same shape and surface area as the paper, and about 1/2" thick. This is a hires touch-sensitive graphics display/computer... a tablet. Turn it on-- it too, is a blank slate!
Here's the difference: you can do all the things you did with the sheet of paper (and more)... but you don't need any separate tools!
Using a stylus would be more effective unless you like only fingerpainting.
You appear to assert that:
1) power text entry is what makes the physical mouse and keyboard necessary
2) power text entry is required for a computer to be useful to the majority.
My assertion is that for a large form factor slate tablet to replace existing form factors it will have to be capable of comfortable text entry.
Consider the mouse: most available mice have multiple, say 3, buttons and some sort of scroll wheel. Using this device you can manipulate a cursor, precisely, between 2 adjacent characters or scroll a page of text. Once positioned, you can enter text (via the keyboard) or, through a combination of buttons and keystrokes, command the computer to do something (select, copy/paste, print, etc).
And you can draw, pan, zoom, rotate, etc with a mouse. You can even scribble.
Now, consider a tablet with your hands acting as the mouse. You could have 10 separate cursors (mice) or a single 9-button mouse. You can scroll or pan with ease. Not, only that, you could use this same device (your hand mouse) to zoom in or out to position the cursor where you want,
The point is that you will have to zoom in order to precisely place the cursor where you want as opposed to simply precisely move the cursor where you want.
Also, you are not obscuring the content with your hands.
Ok, now back to your physical keyboard. Having positioned the cursor by using the mouse with one hand, you now must release the mouse and move that hand back to the home row (thank the deity for dimples... pimples, actually)!
There are also these things called "arrow keys". These can also precisely move you one letter at a time in any direction.
Once your hands are positioned, you need to stretch your fingers and physically depress and release keys. You can get into a rhythm, and gain speed and accuracy. Hopefully you have a keyboard that fits your hands well, and is comfortable to use-- with just the right combination of: key size and placement; physical pressure; keystroke distance; and tactile feedback. But, even then, the physical moves can be uncomfortable and tiring. And certain combinations, say a list of expenditures or table entries do not lend themselves to touch typing. From time-to-time you need to reposition your hands on the home row. Then, when you want to change some text somewhere else in the document. You stop typing, remove 1 hand and place it on your mouse, use the buttons and scroll wheel to reposition the cursor (and maybe select some text). This is where we came in.
Thank you for such a long winded depliction of what it is like to type on a keyboard which I am SURE that few on this forum have any personal experience with.
It would be more helpful to actually analyze to steps required.
Repositioning cursor and begin typing requires the following steps (assuming mouse):
1) Mentally prepare - 1.2 seconds
2) Point object on screen - 1.10 seconds
3) single click - 0.10 seconds
4) Rehome the hand - 0.40 seconds
5) Mentally prepare to type - 1.2
M+P+B+H = 4.0 seconds
Now, consider a virtual keyboard on our tablet. You have just positioned the cursor with your hand mouse and now you want to start typing. Both hands are already positioned on the surface in a typing position (why not). You signal the tablet that you want to start typing (rather than mousing) by tapping, say 3 fingers on either hand.
Let us consider this statement more carefully.
To move position the cursor you did this:
1) Mentally prepare to select (1.2)
2) Mentally recall gesture and use a gesture to enter cursor positioning mode (0.58)
3) Position the cursor. This can be problematic given the finger size and text size, however let us assume that we have something like the Blackberry target mode and no zooming is required (or there would be 2 additional gestures involved). - 1.10 sec.
4) Mentally recall and use a gesture to enter typing mode...with BOTH hands or there will be no registration event for the other hand. (0.58)
5) Mentally prepare to type 1.2
M+G+P+G+M = 4.13
Gesture time based on studies of graffiti stroke time used in a 2005 study by Lou and John.
Actually, it's been a while since I have done KLM and I'm on travel so take those measures with a grain of salt.
A virtual keyboard heads up can be displayed, if desired. The GUI recognizes the size and shape of your fingers and adjusts the size of the keys (and keyboard) accordingly (or you could have custom-configured the virtual kb in a setup step). There is no need to move your mouse hand, nor to find the home row-- the home row is wherever your hands are positioned. Now you can power type by using a keystroke similar to a physical key board and get adequate tactile feedback with a vibration or click.
Except that you cannot. I can rest my hand on my physical keyboard without potentially introducing a spurious key click. My home row provides tactile feedback to actual hand position relative to the keys. The travel in the keyboard provides sufficient offset to minimize accidental typing.
There is no tactile feedback to my finger positions on a virtual keyboard displayed on a touch screen (there is currently no ability to raise the touch surface to provide physical cues like say...dimples...this would greatly mitigate the disadvantages of virtual keyboards AND provide significant UI possibilities...alas they still do not exist).
If taps are used to enter keystrokes then the fingers cannot rest on the virtual home row and must hover when in typing mode (try typing on a flat surface on an imaginary keyboard while never lifting any other fingers and generating a spurious tap).
Plus you are now wasting a good chunk of your tablet display surface by obscuring it with your hovering hands. You can, of course, use two displays.
Or, you can take advantage of an intelligent virtual keyboard... maybe just lay your fingers on the keys and type with a slight up down movement. Or, maybe just wiggle or press a finger slightly to accomplish a keystroke. No longer do you need to make long stretching motions to position your fingertips precisely over the desired key.
You still have to move your finger from the current key to the desired key. You are simply replacing the tap with a wiggle. The more gentle/subtle the movement the more likely spurious input will occur. You DO realize that physical keyboards could be made that require almost no pressure right?
The tablet can detect a shorter finger movement and infer the positioning to the another key. By a combination of: analysis (of hand and finger size); custom keyboard setup; and AI; the tablet can learn what your finger movements mean. While this would be unfamiliar, at first, with a little usage you could become quite proficient-- and likely, exceed the speed and accuracy of a physical keyboard.
You will have to provide studies that even SUGGEST that behavior to make such assertions that "with a little usage" you could "likely" exceed the speed of a physical keyboard assuming the same keyboard layout.
The same optimization for virtual keyboards largely work for physical keyboards. You can apply Fitts Law for optimizing key placement in both virtual and physical keys for more efficient key layout. There are, in fact, quite a few optimized (for specific languages) keyboard layouts using several different algorithms (like shorthand patterning) in litereature.
To my knowledge, there is not a study that has shown that virtual keyboards have advantages over physical ones. There was at least one study that showed the contrary (higher error rates and lower speed). If necessary I will find the reference for you but its in an older research proposal I wrote and have to find again.
You might say that a physical keyboard and a mouse pad would offset some of the advantages, I've outlined. I agree, some but not all.
So, yes, I believe that I have described one power text entry process that is superior to the physical keyboard and mouse (or mouse pad).
You can believe that if you like. You have failed to consider aspects of virtual multitouch keyboard that negate those advantages either in increased number of steps, increased cognitive load (gesture recall vs physical movement from mouse to keyboard), and increased error rates from lack of tactile cues. You have also assumed capabilities not present in current touch systems.
If I simply assume away technical challenges and ignore negative aspects of a design I can easily describe something "superior" to what actually has to work in the physical universe with current human technology.
One interesting possibility for power text entry is chording. Engelbart maintained that typists improved their efficiency [over a QWERTY kb] with a few hours training on a one-hand chording kb. Consider the possibilities of a 2-handed virtual chording keyboard.
These exist already. It is possible that virtual chording keyboard will have a higher acceptance rate than physical ones.
I wouldn't hold my breath.
So the question remains: is technology far enough advanced to let us abandon the physical keyboard and mouse. I suspect it is. But we'll never know until someone tries. All the signs suggest that, that someone is Apple.
I suspect otherwise and would love to be proven wrong by Apple. However, there are significant drawbacks to even those provided by Apple patents in providing the desired level of physical cues in a display based multitouch keyboard.
In a SLATE format, it is even less likely given that unless Apple has figured out how to make hands translucent you will be obscuring up to half of your usable display space with your hands.