I’ve long assumed that the Macintosh conceptual design model is spatial while Windows is conceived by its designers as a tool. Well thanks to Peter, here’s evidence I’m right. This may seem like a small thing, but I believe it goes a long way to explaining why Mac users are so, um, zealous in their allegiance. The way it feels to be “in” the Mac “world” is personal in a way that Windows just isn’t. Peter’s posting of the original Mac manual also reminded me of how the first Macs felt like little houses or secret boxes for all your personal stuff. I remember people keeping diaries on them and they’d carry the Mac onto their dorm room beds. This sort of emotional content is what great design (if not necessarily market success) is all about for me.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Lifestreams, but the idea of moving beyond the folder/file metaphor for organizing digital information seems inevitable. And with Apple’s iTunes (and iPhoto), that evolution has begun in earnest. I’m sure there are lots of other examples, but these apps are widely used and sure to be influential. They treat files (either mp3’s or photos) as data objects and then organize around metadata (artist, album, membership on a playlist, etc). This freaked me out at first and I spent a lot of time making sure that the underlying file system more or less matched what was in iTunes (just in case I needed to access the files independently of iTunes). But as of version 3, iTunes is willing and capable of managing the files for me. I don’t want to make too much of this, but I think this is an important, and welcome, transitional moment in operating system development history.
Windows v. Mac metaphor #2,080… Windows is a tool, MacOS is a space. I actually think this explains a lot about the two different approaches to designing an OS. It’s why many things in Windows are more efficient than on a Mac, and it (partially) explains why Macs have such strong appeal to visual designers. It also helps explain the bitterness of the feud, since so much depends on your approach to your computer. There have been times in my life when I’ve approached my computer as a tool, but I’ve come to feel much more that it’s a space I inhabit (in which I spend an inordinate amount of time in fact). So, although there will be times I miss Windows’ efficiency-at-all-costs philosophy, it’s no surprise that my next computer will be a Macintosh. (OK, the fact it’s running Unix doesn’t hurt ;)
Metaphor of the day: Typefaces are like flavors of ice cream… better to have a few really good ones than 100 that are kinda lame.
I just got back from a week in Hawaii, which was very relaxing, thanks for asking! I went on four dives and it occurred to me—as it does every time I dive—that SCUBA allows me to cross an interface, to inhabit both realms. Thankfully, its own interface is extremely transparent (open a valve, stick the regulator in your mouth and you can breathe). It reminds me of William Gibson’s depiction of jacking in and being able to interact with data constructs spatially.. diving in data.
I had a nice birthday yesterday, thanks for asking! I didn’t touch a computer, but I did think a bit about Brenda Laurel’s Computers as Theater. I’ve been finding it incredibly valuable to read stuff that approaches interface outside of a straight-up HCI context. Whether it’s architecture, gaming, comics, or theater, it forces me to step back from the mundane design decisions that I’m making (should the “Cancel” button go on the left or right of the “Continue” button) and think in a different and larger way about what I’m doing.
Anyhoo, I was reading the book, thinking about human-computer interaction in terms of narrative pleasure and I started seeing the interaction differently, with different sub-tasks as little scenes, with beginnings, middles, and ends, and with a need for the interface to move the action from scene to scene: “Congratulations, you’re now registered. Now you can do the following…” Cool.
So, now I’m wondering: is there a place for comedy in human-computer interaction? What about tragedy?