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Human Computer Interaction

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Learning Goals
As the aim of this lecture is to introduce you the study of Human Computer
Interaction, so that after studying this you will be able to:
Answer what is the significance of Human Computer Interaction (HCI)
Discuss and argue about why Human computer Interaction (HCI) is important with
reference to the way in which technology has developed during past forty years
Describe a formal definition of HCI.
At the end of this lecture you will be told about the course contents. This will be a
brief overview of the topics that we will discuss in this course and the structure of the
Run for your lives---invasion has begun---the computers are invading.
Now it is twenty first century and during the past thirty years technology has
advanced to such an extent that almost everyone come in contact with computers in
one way or another. Look around yourself how many things are there which have
some kind of computer embedded in them? Think about a minute about what you use
in a typical day; ATM, cell phone, VCR, remote control, ticketing machine, digital
personal organizers, calculator, watch, photocopier, toaster, bank, air conditioner,
broadcasting, satellite, microwave, medical equipment, factories, companies….the list
is endless. Computers are everywhere. We are surrounded by computers. Now they
are part of our everyday life.
Traditional notion of computers is no more. Unlike in the early days of computing,
when only highly skilled technical people used computers, nowadays the range of
knowledge and experience of different users is very broad. Computers are no more
just on your table. Now computer has become a tool of everyday use. They are
everywhere, at everyplace and in everything. They are penetrating in every aspect of
our life. They are taking our lives.
When computers first appeared on the commercial scene in the 1950s, they were
extremely difficult to use, cumbersome and at times unpredictable. There were a
number of reasons for this;

They were very large and expensive machines, so that by comparison human labor
(that is, ’people time’) was an inexpensive resource.
They were used only by technical specialists – scientists and engineers – who were
familiar with the intricacies of off-line programming using punch cards.
Little was known about how to make them easier to use.
None of these conditions holds today: computers have become much less expensive,
users come from every walk of life, and we understand a great deal more about how
to fit the machines to people’s needs and their work.
Dramatic decrease in the cost of computing resources have resulted from new
technological advances, the most significant being the development of the silicon
chip. The ability not only to miniaturize circuits but also to pack large number of them
on to tiny, individual chips paved the way for his development of powerful computers
with large storage capacity. In less than thirty years computers changed from being
huge machines housed in large, air-conditioned rooms to much smaller machines,
including some that can easily be carried around by children. Computers have also
become more reliable and today’s machines do not suffer from overheating like their
ancestors. Computing has entered a new era and is becoming ubiquitous.
The development of the first personal computers in the 1970s was a major landmark
because these machines provided interactive computing power for individual users at
low cost. Consequently, instead of just a handful of highly experienced programmers
being the only users, people from all walks of life – commerce, farming, education,
retailing, defense, manufacturing and entertainment – began using computer systems.
Computers are becoming increasingly POWERFUL.
Computers are performing more and more TASKS. These changes in technology have
opened up a wide range of new possibilities for the way in which computers can be
used. The sheer costliness and time required to run programs on the early machines
dictated the kinds of commercial application in which computers could be used.
Business such as banking and accounting, with large-scale record keeping activities,
were the first to take up computing technology. Companies that were involved in
activities with ‘fast’ cycles, such as transaction processing for airlines and retailing,
could not make use of these machines. They were not sufficiently fast or responsive,
but this is not a problem with modern computers.
Computers have also found a place in many private homes. In fact, such has been
their pervasiveness that now just about everyone, young or old, able or disabled,
skilled or unskilled, is using or is directly affected by computers in one way or
another. Machines are leaking into every aspect of lives. So now the concept of life,
without computer is same as concept of life without electricity, and obviously it is
hard to live without light as well as with computer!
Run for your lives---invasion has begun---the computers are invading.
As computers are penetrating in our daily life, it has some results. The bright side of
this invasion is:
Computers are enabling new discoveries

Leading to efficiencies
Making our life easy and convenient
On the not so bright side the result is:
Computers are annoying us
They are infuriating us
They even kill a few of us.
In turn, we will be tempted to kill our computers, but we won’t dare because we are
already utterly, irreversibly dependent on these hopeful monsters that make modern
life possible. So we will have to think about them. We will have to think how we can
make them better. We need to fundamentally rethink how human and machines
interact. And rethink the relationship in deep and novel ways, for the fault for our
burgeoning problems lies not with our machines, but with us.

1.1 Riddles for the Information Age

What do you get when you cross a computer with an Airplane?

In December 1995, American Airlines Flight 965 departed from Miami on a regularly
scheduled trip to Cali, Columbia. On the landing approach, the pilot of the 757 needed
to select the next radio navigation fix, named “ROZO”. He entered an “R” into his
navigation computer. The computer returned a list of nearby navigation fixes starting
with “R” and the pilot selected the first of these, whose latitude and longitude
appeared to be correct. Unfortunately, instead of “ROZO”, the pilot selected
“ROMEO”, 132 miles to the northeast. The jet was southbound descending into a
valley that runs north-south, and any lateral deviation was dangerous. Following
indications on the flight computer, the pilots began an easterly turn and slammed into
a granite peak at 10,000 feet. One hundred and fifty two passengers and all eight
crewmembers aboard perished. Four passengers survived with serious injuries.

What do you get when you cross a computer with a Camera?

Here is a riddle for the information age: what do you get when you cross a computer
with a camera? Answer: A computer! Thirty years ago, a 35mm Pentax Model H, had
a small battery in it that powered the light meter. Like a wristwatch battery, I merely
swapped in a new one every couple of years. Fifteen years ago, an electronic camera,
a 35mm Canon T70, used two AA batteries to power its rather simple exposure
computer and its automatic film drive. It had a simple On/Off switch, so that the
batteries wouldn’t wear down needlessly.
Five years ago, a first-generation digital camera, had a similar On/Off switch, but this
time it had the smarts of a rudimentary computer inside it. So if I forgot to turn it off,
it automatically shut down after one minute of inactivity.
One year ago, second-generation digital camera, a Panasonic PalmCam, had an even
smarter computer chip inside it. It was so smart that its On/Off switch had evolved
into an Off/Rec/Play switch. It now had modes: it had to put into Rec mode to take
pictures and Play mode to view them on its small video display.
The newest camera, a Nikon CoolPix 900, is a third-generation digital camera and the
smartest yet. In fact, it has a full-blown computer that displays a Windows-like
hourglass while it “boots up”. Like some mutant fish with extra heads, its On/Off
switch has now grown to have four settings: Off/ARec/MRec/Play. “ARec” means
“automatic record” and “MRec” means “manual record.” as far as I can figure out
how to turn it on without a lengthy explanation.
The new camera is very power-hungry, and its engineers thoughtfully provided it with
a sophisticated computer program that manages the consumption of battery power. A
typical scenario goes like this: I turn the evil off/etc. switch to “MRec,” wait about
seven long seconds for the camera to boot up, then point it at my subject. I aim the
camera and zoom in to properly frame the image. Just as I’m about to press the shutter
button, the camera suddenly realizes that simultaneously running the zoom, charging
the flash, and energizing the display has caused it to run out of power. In self-defense,
it suspends its ability to actually take pictures. But I don’t know that because I’m
liking through the viewfinder, waving my arms and saying “Smile” and pressing the
shutter button. The computer detects the button press, but it simply cannot obey. In a
misguided effort to help out, the power management program instantly takes over and
makes an executive decision: shed load. It shuts down the power-greedy LCD video
display. I look at the camera quizzically, wondering why it didn’t take the picture,
shrug my shoulders, and let my arm holding the camera drop to my side. But as soon
as the LCD is turned off, there is more battery power available for other systems. The
power management program senses this increase and realizes that it now has enough
electricity to take pictures. It now returns control to the camera program, which is

waiting patiently to process the command it received when I pressed the shutter
button, and it takes a nicely auto-focused, well-exposed, high-resolution digital
picture of my kneecap.
That old mechanical Pentax had manual focusing, manual exposure, and manual
shutter-speed, yet it was far less frustrating to use than the fully computerized modern
Nikon CoolPix 900, which has automatic focusing, exposure, and shutter-speed.
Camera may still take pictures, but it behaves like a computer instead of a camera.

What do you get when you cross a computer with an alarm clock?

A computer! I just purchased an expensive new clock-radio for my bedroom, a JVC
FS-2000. It has a very sophisticated computer brain, and offers high fidelity, digital
sound, and lots of features. It wakes me up at a preset time by playing a compact disc,
and it has the delicacy and intelligence to slowly fade up the volume when it begins to
play at six o’clock in the morning. This feature is really pleasant and quite unique,
and it compensates for the fact that I want to hurl the infuriating machine out the
It’s very hard to tell when the alarm is armed, so it occasionally fails to wake me up
on a Monday and rousts me out of bed early on a Saturday. Sure, it has an indicator to
show the alarm is set, but that doesn’t mean it’s useful. The clock has a sophisticated
alphanumeric liquid crystal display (LCD) that displays all of its many functions. The
presence of a small symbol in the upper left corner of the LCD indicates the alarm is
armed, but in a dimly lit bedroom the clock symbol visible, but the backlight comes
on when the CD or radio is explicitly turned on. There’s a gotcha, however, as the
alarm simply won’t ever sound while the CD is explicitly left on, regardless of the
setting of the alarm. It is this paradoxical operation that frequently catches me
It is simple to disarm the alarm: Simply press the “Alarm” button once, and the clock
symbol disappears from the display. However to arm it, I must press the “Alarm”
button exactly five times. The first time I press it, the display shows me the time of
the alarm. On press tow, it shows the time when it will turn the sound off. On press
three, it shows me whether it will play the radio or the CD. On press four, it shows me
the preset volume. On press five, it returns to the normal view, but with the alarm now
armed. But with just one additional press, it disarms the alarm. Sleepy, in a dark
bedroom, it is quite difficult to perform this little digital ballet correctly. The alarm
clock may still wake me up, but it behaves like a computer.

By contrast, my old non-computerized alarm clock woke me up with a sudden, unholy
buzzing. When it was armed, a single red light glowed. When it was not armed, the
red light was dark. I didn’t like this old alarm clock for many reasons, but at least I
could tell when it was going to wake me up.
Because it is far cheaper for manufacturers to use computers to control the internal
functioning of devices than it is to use older, mechanical methods, it is economically
inevitable that computers will insinuate themselves into every product and service in
our lives. This means that the behavior of all of our products will be the same as most
obnoxious computers, unless we try some thing different.

What do you get when you cross a computer with a car?

A computer! Porsche’s beautiful new high-tech spots car, the Boxster, has seven
computers in it to help manage its complex systems. One of them is dedicated to
managing the engine. It has special procedures built into it to deal with abnormal
situations. Unfortunately, these sometimes backfire. In some early models, if the fuel
level in the gas tank got very low---only a gallon or so remaining---the centrifugal
force of a sharp turn could cause the fuel to collect in the side of the tank, allowing air
to enter the fuel lines. The computer sensed this as a dramatic change in the in coming
fuel mixture, and interpreted it as a catastrophic failure of the injection system. To
prevent damage, the computer would shut down the ignition and stop the car. Also to
prevent damage, the computer would not let the driver restart the engine until the car
had been towed to a shock and serviced
When owners of early Boxsters first discovered this problem, the only solution
Porsche could devise was to tell them to open the engine compartment and disconnect
the battery for at least five minutes, giving the computer time to forget all knowledge
of the hiccup. The sports car may still speed down those too-lane black top roads, but
now, in those turns, it behaves like a computer.

What do you get when you cross a computer with a warship?

In September of 1997, while conducting fleet maneuvers in the Atlantic, the USS
Yorktown, one of the Navy’s new Aegis guided-missile cruisers, stopped dead in the
water. A Navy technician, while calibrating an on-board fuel valve, entered a zero
into one of the shipboard management computers, a Pentium Pro running Windows
NT. The program attempted to divide another number by that zero---a mathematically
undefined operation---which resulted in a complete crash of the entire shipboard
control system. Without the computers, the engine halted and the ship sat wallowing
in the swells for two hours and fifty-five minutes until it could be towed into port.
Good thing it wasn’t in a war zone.
What do you get when you cross a computer with a warship? Admiral Nimitz is
rolling in his grave! Despite this setback, the Navy is committed to computerizing all
of its ships because of the manpower cost savings, and so deflect criticism of this
plan, it has blamed the “incident” on human error. Because the software creation
process is out of control, the high-tech industry must either bring its process to heel or
it will continue to put the blame on ordinary users while ever-bigger machines sit
dead in the water
So here you saw the result of integrating computers in our lives. As I said early,
computers will annoy us, infuriate us, and even kill a few of us. In turn, we will be
tempted to kill our computers, but we won’t dare because we are already utterly,
irreversibly dependent on these hopeful monsters that make modern life possible. So
we will have to think about them. We will have to think how we can make them
better. We need to fundamentally rethink how human and machines interact. And
rethink the relationship in deep and novel ways, for the fault for our burgeoning
problems lies not with our machines, but with us.

1.2 Role of HCI

Here comes the role of HCI. Human designed the interfaces we hate; human continue
to use dysfunctional machines even as the awkward interfaces strain their eyes, ache
their backs, and ruin their wrist tendons. HCI plays a role to bridge up the gape
between the interfaces of machines and human understanding that we have seen in the
previous examples.

Definition of HCI

“Human-Computer Interaction is a discipline concerned with the design, evaluation
and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use and with the
study of major phenomena surrounding them”

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