[SIGCIS-Members] AIT publishes comprehensive digital report on Human Computer Interaction

Tom Abram research at archivesit.org.uk
Wed Sep 6 08:58:02 PDT 2023

>From Punch Cards to Brain Computer Interfaces: 75 Years of Human Computer Interaction and its Impact on Society (https://archivesit.org.uk/75-years-of-human-computer-interaction/), was commissioned by Archives of IT (AIT) to develop the story of HCI by leveraging the charity’s unique knowledge base, reviewing our archive of interviews produced since 2015 and conducting six new interviews between late 2022 and early 2023.

Together they now tell a more comprehensive, up-to-date and personal account of this life-changing aspect of social and industrial history.

Dr Elisabetta Mori has led the project with a particular emphasis on the UK’s distinctive contribution to the subject. In her report she takes the reader on a journey through HCI’s evolution from the early years of computing from 1948 – when the subject was dominated by the first mainframes – to today’s world where we take for granted Graphical User Interfaces and an ever-growing number of interactive technologies.

AIT’s Director, Tom Abram, said: “Reading about the past made those of us who have been working closely with Dr Mori think about the future. We have been struck, once again, by how the lessons of history are so often relevant going forward: HCI has a key part to play in building a future that’s more democratic, based on the total human experience and caters for all genders, backgrounds, and abilities – but only if we do it right.”
AIT is very grateful to the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists for funding this work in line with its aim of providing leadership for the IT industry.

The report is free to use, downloadable, has links to the AIT website of the personal histories of the people interviewed and is split into decades to make it easier to navigate.

HCI through the decades

•       1940s-1960s Mainframe Computers: Bulky Installations Operated by Specialists. These included British tea shop company Lyons who pioneered the use of computers in business with its LEO Computers.
•       1970s-1980s The Computer Becomes Personal – from minicomputers to microprocessors and the Graphical User Interface.
•       1970s-1980s Mapping Early HCI Communities in Britain including the Man-Machine Interaction Group at the National Physical Laboratory and the Human Sciences and Advanced Technology Research Group.
•       1980s-1990s The Alvey Programme and the Establishment of a HCI Community in the UK. The Alvey Programme helped to raise the level of UK user interface design and improve the use of advanced speech recognition and image synthesis techniques.
•       1990s-2000s The World Wide Web: A New Paradigm of Information Sharing. The focus shifts and the browser is born as interfaces suddenly need to accommodate not only expert users, but also individuals with varying abilities.
•       2000s-onwards The Computer Becomes Ubiquitous and smartphones popularise capacitive touchscreens and multi-touch gestures with the iPhone in particular allowing users to navigate the home screen with their finger, which was a revelation at the time.

Resources include

New interviews

•       Linda Macaulay (interviewed by AIT in November 2022), now Professor Emirita of Information Design at the University of Manchester, was working in the computer department at Huddersfield Polytechnic in the early 1990s where she could pursue her interests in researching HCI and gives an insight on how it featured in the initial impact of the internet.

•       Professor Alan Newell OBE, Emeritus Professor at Dundee University, who has spent more than 40 years conducting research in Human Computer Interaction, primarily into supporting elderly and disabled people, talks about the digital divide in his interview with AIT in January 2023.

•       Looking at the impact of British research in the field of HCI, Dianne Murray (interviewed by AIT in February 2023), a Usability and Interface Design Consultant and one of the earliest researchers in HCI in the UK at the National Physical Laboratory since the early 1980s, says there are various specialties that HCI has managed to help foster.

•       Ernest Edmonds, who, (interviewed by AIT in March 2023) as part of the HCI project, gave a talk at the British Computer Society in 1970, which he says was an important aspect in the journey toward human computer interaction, and talks about forming an alliance with Brian Shackel and his Human Sciences and Advanced Technology (HUSAT) research group.

•       Professor Alan Dix, Director of the Computational Foundry at Swansea University specialising in HCI (interviewed by AIT in March 2023), points out the deep interaction we have with computation, which has resulted in this major shift in the pervasiveness of computers in society.

•       Professor Harold Thimbleby, interviewed in January 2023, See Change Digital Health Fellow at Swansea University, founded the University College London Interaction Centre in 2001 and talks about technology such as the iPhone being a success because its user interface was an immediate hit with the general public. He says HCI is both psychology and computer science.

YouTube Playlist
Watch our playlist of 25 clips taken from some of the pioneers and personalities featured in the report.


For more information or any questions please contact:
Adrian Murphy
Email: pr at archivesit.org.uk
Mobile: 07446154904
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