Every Computer Will Work This Way [u]

I saw a very rudimentary graphical user interface. It wasn’t complete. It wasn’t quite right. But within 10 minutes, it was obvious that every computer in the world would work this way someday. And you could argue about the number of years it would take, and you could argue about who would be the winners and the losers, but I don’t think you could argue that every computer in the world wouldn’t eventually work this way.

Steve Jobs quoted in Wired, February, 1996.

You can’t take the word “every” literally, but when I use the iPad I feel exactly the same way. The GUI took about six years to really take off (Windows 3.x was the key); I don’t think the touch interface takes that long.

[UPDATE:] Let me clarify…

The quote was about moving away from the complications of the command line and moving to the GUI as we know it today. It’s a remark Jobs made based on seeing what Xerox PARC was doing. Basically, despite all its then-current faults, the GUI was, to him, obviously the way all machines would work some day.

He was right.

However, in the 25+ years since a mainstream GUI (the Mac) hit the market, they’ve become overly complicated in their own way, just as the old command line had. Too many applications, documents, file types, controls, preferences, networking, etc. to keep track of. Geeks know their way around it, but the average user today is nearly as confused by a modern GUI as a user was in 1983 by DOS.

It’s this confusion that a touch-type OS simplifies. It isn’t just about touch, but about removing the complications of GUIs that have accrued over the years. To me, when I use the iPad I see something with now-current faults (just as the GUI had in the beginning), but it’s clear to me that every computer will eventually work this way.

Further, though derided as a “toy” for years, the GUI finally broke through and took off like a rocket (at around the six-year mark). The touch OS will be the same. It’s already being derided as a toy, but the bigger difference is I don’t think it’ll need six years to really take off.

9 thoughts on “Every Computer Will Work This Way [u]

  1. Pingback: グーグルフォンは元々こんなデザインだった? « maclalala2

  2. Basically in agreement. Five or ten years out the current laptop/desktop will be like the current Mac Pro; extremely powerful and very useful and well supported but used by a small fraction of the population.Clearly there is a lot of work needed to reach that point, but that is the direction in which we are headed.

  3. “…what happens when you have hundreds/thousands of files? Apple needs to solve that…”There is a solution, SEARCH.I discovered years ago, while learning how to develop .Net applications, that I could find answers to my questions by searching the web than I could by searching my MSDN subscription DVD, even after ripping the DVD to a fast hard disk drive (Disclaimer: the main reason was that I don’t grok Microsoft; and didn’t know how to pose the questions the way a MS geek would). I also discovered that I could navigate most web sites faster using their search boxes faster than by using their tiered menus (Isn’t that the whole point behind wikis and blogs?). I no longer organize bookmarks in Firefox; I just search them out using the “Awesome Bar”. I use Tomboy to keep notes. Etc. Of course, Mac OS X has “Spotlight”. Guess what? Spotlight is included in the iP-devices with iPhone OS3, and is improved in i OS 4. Grok it!

  4. Tom,I agree. The iPad (touch) is the future of computing. My only concern is with the file system. Yes, it’s nice to have the application store the file’s location, but what happens when you have hundreds/thousands of files? Apple needs to solve that, and printing, before the touch interface becomes common everywhere.It’s a great time to be a computer user. This is like 1984 all over again!

  5. Tom, great clarifications. There is a reason I read only a few blogs and yours is one of them. What I truly hope Apple is heading towards a touch screen home server, as a hub, and satellite “TPC’s” (thanks Jared), like an iPad or iPhone, to which one would sync only the data and applications they want. The server could have multiple user accounts and run a optimized version of iTunes (perhaps iStuff?). The server could have physical memory or use a cloud. I want that because that is essentially what my MacBook is turning into. As soon as iLife is completely available for the iPad, my MacBook will be a fancy storage device.I didn’t include printing because I believe printing will be mostly obsolete in 10 years.

  6. Matt, Jared, Thanks for the comments. I’ve updated the post with some clarification.

  7. @Matt, @Tom: I read “The GUI” as “the new iPad GUI”. I think Tom meant the (until iPhone, ubiquitous) WIMP GUI. THAT took six years (1985-19991, Windows 3.x era). iPad will probably take a year or two. Geeks will fight it (and no, GPC (general purpose computers) aren’t going away), but the iPad (and hopefully competitor’s devices like it) and appliance computing will be the future for a great, great number of people. I think the weirdest transition will be from PC to TPC: “Truly Personal Computing” where each person has their own touch device and borrowing someone’s will soon be like asking to borrow someone’s toothbrush. (From what I understand, iPad owning 25-50-somethings have to fight their kids/spouse/etc. to keep them from stealing it away.)

  8. Touch interface adoption is not taking very long at all, but I don’t think that was exactly what Jobs meant. I think he was talking about moving away from file menus and complication. No more “where’s that doc file?”, it will be in whatever application you created it in. And applications will do only what they describe and use only the system resources they should use. Everyone should be able to turn on whatever kind of device they have, be it a PC or iPad, and use it without contacting tech support. While the user does the simple math, the computer will do the algebra and never bother the user with fixing error messages or defragging. A user should not have to worry about RAM or GHZ. This is what we have with the iPad. It is a touch based system, but it’s vision can certainly be used in a mouse and pointer system.

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