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Two Handed, Ten Fingered Computing

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I was a bit of an academic ‘waste of space’ at school. One teacher, who was trying to be supportive, said to a gang of about five of us one day, “Many other teachers think of you as wasters”. That was a surprise.

Most people studying for their ‘A’ levels studied three subjects. My poor results at ‘O’ level meant that I was doing just two ‘A’ levels which meant that I had some spare time to fill.

I was duly dispatched to study statistics ‘O’ level and, much to my embarrassment at the time, typing. Well, I failed the statistics exam, although I quite enjoyed the  lessons, and I passed the typing exam.

For many years, the typing qualification was useless. In the Army, I was learning how to clean weapons, carry out platoon attacks and lead a team.

When I left the British Army, I soon found myself working with computers and I quickly picked up touch typing, which had been a distant memory from school.

How ironic. That one skill is probably the single largest barrier for people learning how to use a computer effectively. Typing with two fingers is no fun and it is exhausting if you are looking at your fingers all of the time.

The use of computers in schools, business and the home is now all pervasive but there has been little change in the format of the computer and how we interact with it for a long time, until recently.

Apple really kicked things off with its iPhone, allowing you to touch the screen with more than one finger or your stylus (which I was always losing).

Suddenly, the computer, albeit a pocket-sized computer, was something the masses were touching.

For sure, there have been ‘Tablet PC’s’ around for some time. But they never had the capability to recognise more than one item touching the screen at once.

Last week, I saw ‘Microsoft Surface’ computing for the second time at the BETT Show in London. The beauty of it is that it is a touch screen computer but the screen is the size of a small table. And, you can touch it with more than one finger.

Big deal. But, the beauty is that a user can, say, bring up a picture imageand move it around the screen with one hand while bringing another picture into view with the other hand. This is technically difficult to do. Imagine having ten people using ten mice on the same computer!

Suddenly, this technology breaks a barrier by removing the tools, such as mice, keyboards, pens and single digits, which have traditionally required us to learn a new skill just to start using the computer.

Now, the computer is a step closer to us.

I can see some great applications for these computers in schools helping Classroom Assistants to help children with reading and arithmetic, to help them become more engaged in the most important skills. 

The price of a ‘surface computer’ is pretty steep now but they will become increasingly popular and accessible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The battle of easiness

08/08/2007 1 comment

Dell Computers have announced that they are going to ship PC’s with Linux as the operating system and not Windows. (Dell rolls out Windows rival in Europe). I am underwhelmed. What a big yawn.

The open source operating system, Linux, has been threatening Microsoft’s Windows operating for some time now. In server technology, Linux is used widely for web servers. On the desktop, there are versions of Linux available for free or a small fee.

Microsoft provokes a lot of negative passion against its operating system and other software from Linux devotees. My brother is a devoted open source techie and spits blood about Microsoft software. I even let him have a go at setting up an old PC of mine with a version of Linux installed so it could act as my web server, proxy server and network server. Afer many hours if fiddling with the machine, it would not work properly. So I ditched it. I just could not be bothered to mess about with it any longer.

With my Windows PC’s in the household, I have enough knowledge to set them up, install new software and hardware and just use them for what they are meant for. Work, play and information.

What is really interesting is what Google is doing with technology for the individual. Their ‘Doc’s and Spreadsheets’ tools, their mail system, and other tools such as Picasa, are excellent and easy to use. I do like Microsoft Office. It’s getting better and better. I like Groove. I like Office Live.

Easy to use! That’s it. That’s all I need. Easy to use as well as easy to access. So, when I say I am underwhelmed by Dell announcing that they are shipping PC’s with Linux installed on them, I couldn’t care less.

As a home user, the operating system will soon become irrelevant to me. What is relevant is what I can do with technology. I can do a lot with Office Live and Google Doc’s and Spreadsheets and I do it online. Soon, I won’t need a big hard drive and masses of applications installed on the machine.

Just give me bandwidth, a browser and make it easy to use!