Out with the INterface

I can think of one way that being an IT person is like being a doctor.  It’s not a Hippocratic oath, I can mess up your computer all I want.  It’s what happens when we meet laypeople.   About a third of the people I meet have computer or technology questions.  lately, a lot of people have been asking me what’s going to happen to our interface in the next few years.  Windows, MacOS, and Linux all simulate a 2d desktop on a monitor.  The computers have gotten faster, the monitors have gotten larger, and the 2d desktop has gotten prettier.  The basic idea hasn’t changed much, though.  The time is coming for some fundamental changes in the way we use our computers.  Extending web and email access to mobile devices has pushed the keyboard/mouse interface to it’s limits.

Imagine a range of tablets, from a half sheet of paper up to a full sheet of paper.  The user carries it around in a purse, man bag, whatever.  That’s the touch screen, full keyboard, web surfing part of the phone.  The talking part is a cell phone sized device or a bluetooth earpiece.  The important thing is that the small and big parts of mobile computing stay separate.  The keyboard is large enough to type on comfortably, and the screen is large enough to share pictures/videos.  The phone part is still small, though, because putting an ipad up to your ear would be stupid.

That’s just one idea for integrating technologies that we currently have.  I’m sure that there are some truly innovative changes to our interface out there just waiting for a little market capitalization to become common.  It may finally be time, 30+ years after it’s invention, to get rid of the 2d desktop interface.  I won’t really miss it, but we will get a whole new generation of people saying “I just don’t get that computer stuff, better find a friend who knows computers.”

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