Monday, 11 April 2011

Human Computer Interface (HCI) Assignment

Part A
Describe a brief history of Human Computer Interface since its first inception as an important factor in IT.
Human Computer Interface is a study of interaction between users and computers.
HCI is a multidisciplinary area. People with different backgrounds contributed to its success.  It is the intersection of many study fields like behavioral sciences, computer science, design, operating systems, programming languages, linguistics, cognitive psychology, social sciences perceptual psychology, artificial intelligence, anthropology and many more.
"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."  Association for Computing Machinery .
Research in HCI started as exploratory work at universities and government and industrial research labs. The researches, first, started at universities in 1960s, and then later it spread to the industrial research and then in 1980s commercial products started coming.
Since the first demonstration of the direct manipulation interface by Ivan Sutherland in Sketchpad, many technological products employed some interface techniques like iconic representations, gesture recognition, dynamic menus, and selection of icons by pointing, and moded and mode-free styles of interaction in those early days.
Then Hypertext, Windows Managers and UIMS and Toolkits, Computer Aided Design systems and Video Games emerged. Early window managers such as Smalltalk and InterLisp came with a few widgets, such as popup menus and scrollbars. The Xerox Star was the first commercial system to have a large collection of widgets and to use dialog boxes. The Apple Macintosh was the first to actively promote its toolkit for use by other developers to enforce a consistent interface.
Many years of productive HCI research have led to the successful interfaces of today. Some of them are drawing programs, paint programs, animation systems, text editing, spreadsheets, multimedia, 3D, virtual reality, interface builders, event-driven architectures, usability engineering and many more.
A number of diverse methodologies outlining techniques for human–computer interaction design have emerged since the rise of the field. Early methodologies of HCI treated users' cognitive processes as predictable and quantifiable and encouraged design practitioners to look to cognitive science results in areas such as memory and attention when designing user interfaces. Modern models tend to focus on a constant feedback and conversation between users, designers, and engineers and push for technical systems to be wrapped around the types of experiences users want to have.
Describe why Human Computer Interface so important nowadays in development of systems and what can happen if this is ignored. Illustrate your answer with examples.
Nowadays users expect highly effective interfaces, elegant and clear design, easy to use and easy to learn systems. Developers and manufacturers also realized the importance of the User Interface. Surveys show that over 50% of the design and programming effort on projects is devoted to the user interface.
Lots of innovative technological products were a financial failure in the early days of the HCI. HCI reduces the users’ resistance to learn new technologies. User base of those products increase quickly and as a result it brings financial success to the manufacturers and developers. IPod is a good example of this.
If HCI is ignored in development of systems, it might even bring catastrophe. There are well-known catastrophes that have resulted from not paying enough attention to the human-computer interface. For example, the complicated user interface of the Aegis tracking system was a contributing cause to the erroneous downing of an Iranian passenger plane, and the US Stark's inability to cope with Iraqi Exocet missiles was partly attributed to the human-computer interface. Problems with the interfaces of military and commercial airplane cockpits have been named as a likely cause for several crashes, including the Cali crash of December 1995. Sometimes the implementation of the user interface can be at fault. A number of people died from radiation overdoses partially as a result of faulty cursor handling code in the Therac-25.

Part B
What are the health and safety considerations that should be given to computers users and why it is important?
Health and Safeties of the computer users should be taken into account in development of the HCI to prevent accidents and injures. Safety considerations should be applied in system acquisition to minimize the potential for accidental injury of personnel and mission failure. System Safety and Health Hazards issues should be carefully observed and applied. Health Hazard categories include acoustic energy, biological substances, chemical substances, oxygen deficiency, radiation energy, shock, temperature extremes and humidity, trauma, vibration, and other hazards. Health hazards include those areas that could cause death, injury, illness, disability, or a reduction in job performance. Ignorance of those issues mentioned above may cause human injures and casualties. For example, using Cathode Ray Tube Monitors may cause eye injuries or sitting on non ergonomic chairs may cause back injuries.

What are the cost implications and user considerations when choosing a Human Computer Interface?
Users may consider all sorts aspects of the HCI; User-friendliness, easy-to-use and easy-to-learn, elegance and clarity of the design, legible/audible display, documentation, display of information and interaction related to security and privacy especially on ecommerce systems, transaction clarity and transparency of the transactions on ecommerce systems, affordable price and etc.
Giving attention to the usability of the HCI can result in significance cost savings. First system based on usability engineering Xerox Star cost $12,000. Later Apple Lisa cost $10,000. By the time HCI methods improved and later 1984 Apple Macintosh cost $2,500.

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