Medium does matter

During this reading by McLuhan, I understood the “Medium” piece more than the Gutenberg one because of one) the language and 2) the references were things that I had heard of, but not really studied well enough to understand the connection on the same level.

One thing I found interesting in “Gutenberg” was the discussion on invention and the invention on the method of invention. The part where the McLuhan relates invention to a dam breaking and how once invention starts, it never stops. This sort of solidifies what we have been taught in multiple classes across varies fields; that everything builds off of something else. I believe that this can be related back to many different things in history, but it especially makes sense in this essay because like they said, the car didn’t bring on the wheel and axle, but the wheel and axle helped to create the car. It goes back to the simple saying that you need to learn to crawl before you learn how to walk.

In the “Medium” piece, I was able to relate more to what he was saying because I understood where he was coming from. I learned in my leadership class that only 7% of the meaning of written words is understood by the reader. People understand better when there are pictures or emphasis on certain words to really comprehend what is being conveyed to them. When I was reading this essay, I thought about how many different ways media is used in the classroom, and how many different mediums are used as well. With videos, books, the internet, and powerpoint presentations, students are exposed to many different mediums, which allow them to figure out the best way that they can learn the material. I agree with the not every medium has content but every medium does have importance somehow.

I was very confused in reading most of this, so I’m hoping that class discussion will help me understand everything a little bit better. Overall, I thought this brought a new light to what I have learned before and what we have discussed in class, and I look forward to hearing everyone else’ opinions on it.

Kindle and iPad were sort of invented 30 years ago?

The first thing I thought of while I was reading this essay was how much the Dynabook resembled a modern day iPad or Kindle Fire because of all of the things you could do on it. It did more than just store things; it allowed for people to interact with the documents on it and create programs that would benefit whatever you wanted to achieve with the Dynabook. Musicians, artists, businesspeople, and many other professions can use the Dynabook to do their job.

Kay and Goldberg’s idea that children should be able to experiment on them as some of the first users was genius because they are so carefree that they really can let their minds roam and they were allowed to see all of the capabilities of not only the new “tablets” but the capabilities of their skills and imagination. This gives children the sense of accomplishment and in a way gives hope to the future generations.

Another thing that caught my eye when I was reading was the presence of the word “recursion” on page 394. Recursion in this essay to me means that this allows the thinking paths of the children, and all users, really, to grow and flourish while they use the Dynabook, or any computer for that matter. Recursion allows for different skills to interact within one person so they can really see all of the alternatives and options that are available when it comes to working on a task. (That probably wasn’t the best wording for what I was trying to say, but for now, it will have to do.)

The Dynabook also helped with the speed and efficiency of using computers. With timesharing, it took much longer for things to process within the computer and children were using the computer the same amount of time as adults with timesharing. The new invention of the Dynabook allowed for users to have their own space and memory per Dynabook without having to deal with someone else’ information taking up space.

The possibilities were, and still are, endless with the Dynabook and modern day computers and tablets. The fact that there were painting tools, music tools, and other designing programs on the Dynabook was incredible to everyone because it really was the first interactive computer tool and allowed the users to see the work they had created.

The last thing I found entertaining with this essay was that the Dynabook was the first to have different fonts for different effects, which reminded me of class yesterday when Dr. C  made sure we put emphasis on certain words to create the effect that the writers were trying to convey. Different fonts and certain punctuation can make all the difference when reading an essay or article, and thanks to Kay and Goldberg, that became possible with the Dynabook, and today’s computers have taken it even further.

Keep it Simple: Wise Words from Ted Nelson

I think it’s safe to say I thoroughly enjoyed this reading because it was very informal and allowed me to follow it with ease. Nelson was correct in saying that not everyone understands computers, but it is very easy if the people who do understand them allow the outsiders, or laymen, into their environment and teach them their ways. In my opinion, computers can be simple to use if people just open their minds and get rid of the mental block that they have created.

I thought it was interesting how many different ways the computer can work and organize things, not only on the screen, but with the controls as well. The fact that the light pen could do so much with just a simple movement back then and to see how much a button on a mouse can do with a simple “right click”. Nelson’s irritation from buttons being in a row was comic because he just seemed so frustrated by something that a lot of people don’t even recognize now. The one thing that confused me in this section of the essay was the part on collateration, because I didn’t really understand the concept behind it other than that users could piece information together from two documents. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that just how tags on Delicious work? Please let me know if I followed that correctly.

Nelson’s extensive knowledge on the subject matter of computers and the media was very enlightening because there are huge differences between the different mediums. Other than remaining within the content of what you are trying to say, you must remember that some things cannot be portrayed in certain types of media. Nelson was very precise in what he liked and what he didn’t like about the changes in the mediums, which was very calming because he was able to get his point across without mentioning things that were irrelevant to what he wanted to say.

The simplicity throughout the article was amazing. Nelson made a good point that things are only as difficult as people make them. His ten minute or less strategy was genius because after ten minutes, most people will give up. Also, his idea of children using the computer at a very young age and not being able to leave the computer screen has come true. From my daily experiences, my younger cousins, ages 3 to 8, know how to use any cell phone that is in their path and know how to navigate their computers at home. To me, that is a scary thought because eventually they really will become dependent on technology, if they haven’t already.

Speaking of staring at computer screens, Nelson’s argument that computer screens can be adjusted for everyone is so true because they have been formatted to be dimmed, brightened, and many other things. I believe every aspect of computers are user-friendly if treated and approached in a way that people are not terrified of them. The main thing I took from this was to not be afraid of new things, especially if you will be immersed into them later on anyways. Nelson speaks his mind and lets you know that it’s okay to step out of your comfort zone every once in a while, which I completely agree with. Computers and media are not difficult to deal with, so people need to engage themselves in the new world of technology.

It’s amazing how much it takes just to “DW”

During this essay on Doug Engelbart’s first public screening of how one of the first computers worked, not only did he amaze people with what he had accomplished, but he also made me realize how something that can be so menial can take so much effort inside of a computer. While I was reading this piece, multiple things came to mind, other than the fact that it took me about 10 minutes to read about deleting a word on a computer screen, when in reality it takes 85 milliseconds for the action to occur.

In the introduction to this essay by Noah Wardrip-Fruin, he compares and contrasts Engelbart’s original plans for this computer-operating system and what actually comes of it all. For example, Engelbart and ARC worked on the concept of tools and computer users being able to develop their own and enhance tools made by other users. In reality, the system led to a “user-friendly” computer, which is still present today with most computers such as an Apple computer. Engelbart also wanted people to be able to work together and solve complex problems through a interconnected network that had multiple computers feeding into one big database. He thought that if people could expand on others’ work, more solutions would be created for problems and a lot more could be accomplished. However, at first, people didn’t think his network idea would catch on because no one wanted to share their brilliant ideas nor did they want to share their plans that did not live up to their expectations. I don’t know how long it took for people to realize that one day Engelbart would be considered right, but Engelbart seems to be the father of the Internet.

I was intrigued, if not confused, by all of the steps during this essay that showed me what really happens in the heart of a computer when you hit a button, especially one as simple to us as the “delete” button. No one ever thinks about the person who came up with all of these intricate happenings, because it’s always been there, or at least with my generation where elementary school children know how to work computers and cell phones better than their parents at times. And with this being written in 1968, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve really progressed as much as Engelbart thought we would. I mean, everyone thought we would have flying cars by now, and that obviously didn’t happen. In the defense of technology, we do now have multiple functions, such as touchscreen, voice-activation settings, and other things that have really made life easier, but there is only so much modern-day technology can do without making the human being close to worthless. Yes, we may think that having a computer that can do everything for us is a great idea, but all I can think of when I think of this is in the Disney Pixar movie Wall-E, when everyone who lives in the space station rides around on hover-chairs and just eat all day long.

To me, it is very important that people don’t depend too much on technology to run their lives, because we will eventually find out that technology cannot do certain things. By having technology that is too advanced, we will lose our ability to be independent and to learn new things without the aid of a how-to video or a tutorial that comes with a package. We’ve already made multiple things obsolete with the advancement of technology, such as VCR’s and non-smart phones, and with the direction we’re going, humans are slowly making themselves somewhat obsolete in certain aspects.

Some technology just should not happen

After watching the Doug Engelbart video, I have decided that not all technology is good. One thing Engelbart introduced was the contraption that was like a small keyboard, except it only had five buttons, and with 31 different combinations of pressing said buttons, you would be able to make all of the letters in the alphabet.

Um, what?

Why would you want to teach yourself something new that would probably take copious amounts of time because with 31 combinations, and the fact that the buttons are indistinguishable from each other, just so you can save time in the future? I didn’t understand that piece of technology. What’s the point of having a full keyboard and mouse right there then? I was so frustrated by it because technology IS supposed to make life easier, and if you have to fiddle with something new, you might as well just give up now. With the Internet and computers being hard to use at first for everyone, adding something else in that has no indication of what the buttons do is asking for trouble. Even though Engelbart may have been a technology genius, that was not his best piece of work.

However, his expansion on the list organization system was very interesting because that was in a way the foundation for the modern day computer organization system, especially with Windows due to the “Start” button at the bottom. The fact that he was able to figure out the programming to make the lists change to so many different orders is amazing because in a way the computer is learning to make order out of what we input to it. Also, the map function he showed us was interesting because if you forget why you go somewhere, you can just click on the word and it will show you why you’re there. I wish I had something like that just because I forget at least one thing every time I go to the store.

Of all the things I saw and heard during the interview, only one thing would have been of no use to me, which was the half mouse-keyboard thing. Just add that to the list of failed technology/ things that should have never happened in the technological world.

Can computers augment human intellect?

While reading this piece from Engelbart, the one thing that kept sticking in my mind is searches on websites such as Google and Yahoo. The reason this kept coming up is because talking about connecting notes and sources reminded me of all of the different things we can find on the Internet just by doing a simple search. Something I found really interesting while reading this was that “back in the day” this was the most impressive technology when they were writing this. The fact that having a “keyset” and the earliest form of the mouse is mind-blowing to me because these days, some people use their fingers as the mouse for their iPad, iPhone, and any other gagdets that have come out in the past few years.

I know that if it weren’t for the examples that they gave at each section, I would have been really confused on what they were talking about because it was so intricate and if you aren’t used to reading or studying about that kind of stuff, you would have no idea what they were talking about. I was intrigued by all of the tools that were available to them and how they were able to think so fast and allow the computer to do all of the clerical work.

I don’t know if this necessarily augments human intellect, but it definitely gives us more time and freedom to let our minds roam while trying to solve problems. From what I read, the computer doesn’t do any analyzing of its own, its basically the operator organizing their thoughts on something other than paper, and its more automatic, which is always helpful. Overall, this article was probably my least favorite just because it felt pretty repetitive after awhile and my imagination wasn’t really able to roam to the new levels I felt Engelbart wanted me to. It really could have been taken to another level so that everyone could take something from it.