Busby Berkeley invents the gesticular interface

05.09.2010 | Author: Eric Reiss
Contrary to popular belief, Apple Computer didn't invent gesticular interfaces. Take a look at this short clip from the Warner Bros. Vitaphone production Gold Diggers of 1935 (at the 27 minute mark of the movie). Choreographer Busby Berkeley seems to have figured out some key movements back in 1935.

In this scene, tenor Dick Powell is taking poor-little-rich-girl Gloria Stuart shopping in the basement arcade of a swanky new hotel. I apologize in advance for the quality; I simply used my camera to record my iPad in a decidedly analog fashion. (Don't even ask why this movie is in my iPad to begin with).

Notice, too, the graphic incorporation of metadata. Each department is coupled with the name of the woman in charge. For example, in "Lingerie", we find "Annette". Pretty sophisticated "menu" considering that this footage predates the birth of the web by 65 years.

If you want to see the entire number, here's a link:

Geeky relics from the past

05.08.2010 | Author: Eric Reiss
I'm a pack rat. I admit it. My wife, coworkers, casual acquaintances, and even strangers on the street tell me to throw stuff out. But I never do.

So, here I am cleaning up in the FatDUX Copenhagen server room. Loads of artifacts from my previous lives.


Basically, what you see here is every mobile phone and every laptop I've owned since the early 90's. We'll take the laptops first, starting in the back row, moving to the front, left to right:

MacBook 160. The very first MacBook. Good machine. I wrote two books on it. This was one of the very first MacBooks in Denmark, purchased in the fall of 1992 in the U.S. Keyboard converted to Danish about a year later.

Powerbook G3. The so-called "Wall Street" model without a USB port. Very inconvenient, but the machine did serve me well for a couple of years. About 1997.

Acer TravelMate 350. Fantastic machine, fast, lightweight, but a crappy keyboard for touch-typists. This is what happens when hunt-and-peck engineers try and squeeze the three Danish letters (a, ø, å) onto a small piece of keyboard real estate. Note the optional wireless card sticking out the left-hand side. About 2001.

Fujitsu Siemens Lifebook P7010. The best computer I've had. Bar none. But the hard-disk died and my supporter cost me EUR600 before concluding that the machine could not be fixed. About 2005. So that led to...

Fujitsu Siemens Lifebook P7230. The upgraded version (2007) of the previous machine. But not without some quirks. In the meantime, I did manage to get the old hard-disk replaced on the P7010, so I'll probably go back to the older machine.

Apple iPad 64GB 3G. Wonderful for sharing photos, listening to music, and surfing the net. I do like it, but not for serious work that requires typing. Also seriously lousy presentation capability. The FS P7230 is still the workhorse that follows me to conferences. Summer 2010.

And now to the phones:

Motorola "brick" - about 1990. Very clunky, but a real "gee-wow" piece of kit back when everything else in the world was wired. Very Gordon Gekko. Actually, the correct name for this is a "CommNet 2000, ultra Classic by Motorola". Today, it really IS an ultra classic. I can't remember, but I think this might have been an NMT telephone rather than for the GSM network.

Motorola Micro Tac 5200. World's first flip-phone. The antenna is actually a placebo - it does nothing at all! About 1994. This was the first dual-band phone. "TAC" stood for "Total Area Coverage".

Ericsson GH 174. Really heavy piece of crap. Never liked this much - but it was a company phone so it wasn't my decision. About 1994. I can't remember why we got this phone, which was actually an out-of-date model by the time I got it.

Nokia 2110. Absolutely one of the best phones I've ever owned. And a true classic in terms of keyboard layout. This phone set the standard for much that followed. About 1994-5. I switched to a Nokia 3210 in 1999, but I forgot to include it when I took the photo.

Motorola Timeport. My first tri-band telephone that enabled me to work in the USA. Very sexy blue screen, but an unfathomable menu structure. Summer 2000.

Sony Ericsson T68i. Notice the natty clip-on camera. This was my first telephone with a color display. Very poor resolution (101x80 with 256 colours), but hey, color was incredibly neat back around 2002. And it had Bluetooth! I also owned the earlier Ericsson T68 (prior to the merger with Sony).

Nokia 6670. Still one of my favorite phones, despite the early S60 operating system, which qualifies it as one of the very first smartphones. Never got caught in your pocket thanks to the rounded corners. And the 1.0 megapixel camera was pretty good, too. Good MS Office integration. About 2004.

Nokia E70. Another great phone. With the advent of SMS, this phone was great as the keyboard unfolds like two wings on either side of the screen for really fast QWERTY input. Summer 2006.

Apple iPhone 1st generation. We bought a bunch of these in the U.S. and jailbroke them. Fantastic bragging rights back when no one else in Europe had them. I gave this one away to one of our art directors because I was constantly looking for somewhere to charge it, which drove me crazy. My friends at Apple told me, "Eric, you know better than to buy the first generation of any of our products..." Even so, three years later, the unit is still in service. Summer 2007

Nokia E71. Although the Symbian 60 operating system is still difficult to work with, this phone basically did all of those great phone things that I needed - like making phone calls. And it almost never needed to be recharged. Spring 2009

HTC Desire. This is an Android 2.1 smartphone. Devours power like I devour marshmallows. I'm constantly looking for a power outlet. But it can do a lot of stuff when it feels like it. (FatDUXling Andrea Resmini tells me to turn off the Wi-Fi to conserve energy). Unfortunately, European data-transfer rates are crazy, so I'm forced to turn off pretty much everything most of the time. For example, if I just leave the phone on for a day, it will download about 93 MB of data. I don't know where this data comes from or where it goes, but it's a lot. And when I go to the United States, 1 MB costs about USD 10. So, at a potential cost of USD 930 a day, this thing scares me to death each time it beeps. So much for smartphones. Spring, 2010.

Now, that I've showed it to you, I've really got to get rid of this crap...

A biased comparison of HTC Desire and iPhone

02.07.2010 | Author: Frederik Myhr
I’m not going to lie. I am an iPhone user, and I do love it. So why bother to hobnob with the enemy? Two reasons:

1. My boss was pulling his hair trying to fix his voicemail, so he left the phone on my desk.

2. Well – how can you truly appreciate what you have, before knowing if something better is out there?


iPhone and HTC Desire side by side

First glance
HTC Desire’s interface fades in comparison to the extremely intuitive and user-friendly one of the iPhone. iPhone does everything you’d expect it to do, and has only one main navigational button. Desire has several buttons with various and unclear functions.

Already after trying to accomplish just a few fairly simple tasks, I felt a bit stupid. I’m sure that a lot of well-meaning developers have spent a lot of time making this a user-friendly phone, but it’s like they had a big bucket of logic and just stuffed it in there, hoping for the best.

I did manage to complete the tasks I had in mind, but I didn’t quite understand the process until it was actually done.

Logic should be conceived before, and not after completing a task!

A tailored suit
HTC Desire provides a lot of opportunities for personalization, and this will definitely increase the ease of use, in the long run for the individual user. This is one of the major downsides to the iPhone; the degree to which you can customize it. HTC Desire (and other Android phones) are different.

Whereas iPhone is the Swiss knife - a slick multi-tool with great and diverse functionality – HTC Desire is a whole toolbox. You get to decide exactly which tools you carry and exactly how big your hammer is. It might be a big mess in there, but you can always find a screwdriver bit that fits if you look hard enough.

I see this as a huge advantage for the power user, but probably more of a distraction to the user who just wants to make calls, browse and listen to music.

Although logic may not be Desire’s trademark, I stumbled across one thing that it does way better than the iPhone; the browser automatically re-shapes text, according to the width, when zooming. This means that you only have to scroll one way while reading. This is very valuable, since browsing is one of the core features of these kinds of phones.
I probably wouldn’t even have noticed this, if it wasn’t because I’m used to the double-scrolling on my iPhone. And this is what great usability is all about; making things so easy that you wouldn’t even consider it to be “a solved issue”.

By default, HTC Desire comes with seven different home scenes. Seven! Quite intimidating when you’re first trying to figure out what’s going on. I like iPhone’s approach better, where you create screens as you go along.

As I mentioned in the beginning, Desire has several navigational buttons – real physical buttons outside the screen. In my opinion this creates more confusion than value to the user. One of the things I love about touch-screen phones is that the navigation is contextual. This creates instant comprehension of your options because buttons are labeled exactly to the given situation, and not with a generic icon. Introducing five permanent buttons like HTC has done with Desire, simply breaks this great convention.

A specific example of where this can end wrong is when you have to scroll down to find the button you’re looking for. You might not even get to the scrolling part because you are unaware of the fact that the screen holds more information. Left with a bunch of buttons to push, you might end up loosing all the info you’ve just typed in, because you choose to push the button with the sweet little icon, which is actually the home button. By keeping the navigation strictly on-screen and strictly contextual, this will never occur.

Much like iPhone’s Spotlight, Desire has an internal search function as well. To me, Spotlight has proven to be one of the most powerful and fast ways to navigate. By typing just a few characters, you are able to find contacts, emails, songs, calendar posts and much more. Desire has extended their search function to include suggested web searches. In my opinion, this decreases the efficiency because it broadens the search so much that you have to type at least twice the amount of characters to find what you’re looking for.

With a great name comes great responsibility
As stated in the dictionary: ”Android = a robot resembling a human being”.

We can all agree that even the most advanced cell phone on the market is far from being human. Nonetheless, Google has chosen to name their mobile operating system as if it is exactly this. Overkill? I actually think Android is quite a clever name. It passes through the message well, that this system has more to it than just standard cell phone capabilities.

The problem is, that if I should put a head on the human being, whom the system resembles, and hence HTC Desire, it would be a software developer. Considering it is in direct competition with the iPhone, a slightly broader target group seems appropriate.

There’s no real right and wrong here. It all breaks down to your specific needs. A good example is the way it works together with Google. If you are a Google user, you will benefit greatly from the integrated synchronization features, if you’re not, it’s just more noise on the line.

I think HTC Desire is a great phone, and I would recommend it anytime – but only to the right persons.

Personally I’m going to stick with my iPhone. It has the functionality I need, and it lets me access it quick and easy. And it still is, the sweetest piece of eye candy out there.