A Brief History of Hci

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A Brief History of
Human Computer Interaction Technology
Brad A. Myers
Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science Technical Report CMU-CS-96-163 and
Human Computer Interaction Institute Technical Report CMU-HCII-96-103 December, 1996
Please cite this work as:
Brad A. Myers. "A Brief History of Human Computer Interaction Technology." ACM interactions. Vol. 5, no. 2, March, 1998. pp. 44-54. Human Computer Interaction Institute
School of Computer Science
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3891
This article summarizes the historical development of major advances in human-computer interaction technology, emphasizing the pivotal role of university research in the advancement of the field. Copyright (c) 1996 -- Carnegie Mellon University

A short excerpt from this article appeared as part of "Strategic Directions in Human Computer Interaction," edited by Brad Myers, Jim Hollan, Isabel Cruz, ACM Computing Surveys, 28(4), December 1996 This research was partially sponsored by NCCOSC under Contract No. N66001-94-C-6037, Arpa Order No. B326 and partially by NSF under grant number IRI-9319969. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of NCCOSC or the U.S. Government. Keywords: Human Computer Interaction, History, User Interfaces, Interaction Techniques. [pic]

1. Introduction

Research in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) has been spectacularly successful, and has fundamentally changed computing. Just one example is the ubiquitous graphical interface used by Microsoft Windows 95, which is based on the Macintosh, which is based on work at Xerox PARC, which in turn is based on early research at the Stanford Research Laboratory (now SRI) and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Another example is that virtually all software written today employs user interface toolkits and interface builders, concepts which were developed first at universities. Even the spectacular growth of the World-Wide Web is a direct result of HCI research: applying hypertext technology to browsers allows one to traverse a link across the world with a click of the mouse. Interface improvements more than anything else has triggered this explosive growth. Furthermore, the research that will lead to the user interfaces for the computers of tomorrow is happening at universities and a few corporate research labs. This paper tries to briefly summarize many of the important research developments in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) technology. By "research," I mean exploratory work at universities and government and corporate research labs (such as Xerox PARC) that is not directly related to products. By "HCI technology," I am referring to the computer side of HCI. A companion article on the history of the "human side," discussing the contributions from psychology, design, human factors and ergonomics would also be appropriate. A motivation for this article is to overcome the mistaken impression that much of the important work in Human-Computer Interaction occurred in industry, and if university research in Human-Computer Interaction is not supported, then industry will just carry on anyway. This is simply not true. This paper tries to show that many of the most famous HCI successes developed by companies are deeply rooted in university research. In fact, virtually all of today's major interface styles and applications have had significant influence from research at universities and labs, often with government funding. To illustrate this, this paper lists the funding sources of some of the major advances. Without this research, many of the advances in the field of HCI would probably not have taken place, and as a consequence, the user interfaces of commercial products would be far more difficult to use and learn than they are today. As described by Stu Card:...
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