This is a list of resources dealing with Human-Computer-Interaction and information environment issues I have found useful and inspirational over the years. Hope you like it.

seminal HCI papers

As We May Think. Vannevar Bush. 1945.

Man-Computer Symbiosis. J. C. R. Licklider.1960.

Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework. Doug Engelbart. 1962.


Understanding Media ~ Marshall McLuhan [McLuhan Quotes available here]
The place I go to get to grips with "The medium, or process, of our time."

Laws of Media ~ Marshall McLuhan and Eric McLuhan
Subtitled, "The New Science". You bet. A seriously worthwhile study of media. The Tetrad makes things transparent in a very interesting way.

Essential McLuhan ~ edited by Eric McLuhan & Frank Zingrone
More meaningful insights.

The Medium Is The Massage: An Inventory of Effects ~ Marshall McLuhan
Yes, another fantasticMcluhan.

Things That Make Us Smart ~ Donald A. Norman
A great introduction to one of the main issues of interface design; it's all around us, not just on our computer screens. This is the book which started me on this great voyage! Read it or loose out :)

 Darwin Amongst The Machines ~ George Dyson
"In the game of life and evolution, there are three players at the table: human beings, nature, and machine. I am firmly on the side of nature, but nature, I suspect, is on the side of machines." A very lucid look at the relationship between nature at large and machines.

The User Illusion ~ Tor Norretranders
Although not too well received by Wired (what were they thinking?!), this is a fantastic book which gives useful and intriguing insight to the nature of information and our minds. It really does illuminate aspects of consciousness which have both practical and philosophical implications. Should be required reading for any human.

Out Of Control ~ Kevin Kelly [Out Of Control quotes available here]
The co-evolution between man and machine is only one of the many very exciting and thought provoking ideas in this great book. And he understands the importance of building better information environments.

"We now see that no logic except bio-logic can assemble a thinking device, or even a workable system of any magnitude". This marks the introduction of the central premise of the book. He goes on: "A distributed, decentralized network is more a process than a thing. In the logic of the Net there is a shift from nouns to verbs. Economists now reckon that commercial products are best treated as though they were services. It's not what something is, it's what it is connected to, what it does. Flows become more important than resources. Behavior counts".

But my favorite quote is a quote attributed to Marvin Minsky and Douglas Englebart when they met at MIT in the 50's.: "Minsky: 'We're going to make machines intelligent. We are going to make them conscious!' Englebart: 'You're going to do all that for computers? But what are you going to do for people?"

Doug says of the quote though: "I don't know about meeting him in the '50s; I wasn't until '62 that I connected at all with the AI community -- a week (or two?) workshop on AI held at RAND, with Allen Newell and Herb Simon as major part of the "faculty." Minsky wasn't there. Probably didn't meet Minsky until summer '63 at a 6-week working group at MIT on timesharing, sponsored by ARPA. I don't remember much/any interaction directly with Minsky. Might have had that interchange. Did have a fair amount of interaction with Newell over those early years -- some of them were quite definitely having two different visions not aligning; but friends anyway." I still love that quote.

Global Brain ~ Howard Bloom
A well researched treatize on connectedness. "The instant of creation marked the dawn of sociality. neutron is a particle filled with need. It is unable to sustain itself for longer than ten minutes. To survive, it must find at least one mate..."

Tools for thought ~ Howard Rheingold [Available at:]
An exciting and inspirational history of computers. Introduced me to Doug for the first time.

Weaving the Web. The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by its Inventor ~ Tim Berners Lee
The story and insights from the creation of the World Wide Web by the man himself. Excellent.

The Visual Display Of Quantitive Information ~ Edward Tufte
Amazon puts it well: "A timeless classic in how complex information should be presented graphically. The Strunk & White of visual design. Should occupy a place of honor--within arm's reach--of everyone attempting to understand or depict numerical data graphically. The design of the book is an exemplar of the principles it espouses: elegant typography and layout, and seamless integration of lucid text and perfectly chosen graphical examples."

Why, in this day and ago of sophisticated computer graphics, do only the most dedicated graphic designers study how to most clearly communicate?

We have an amazing visual bandwidth, yet waste it with poor informaiton visualizing. Designers, please go read...

The Age Of The Spiritual Machine ~ Ray Kurzweil
Ray Kurzweil simply extrapolates Moore's Law into the next century, with profound consequences.

The Day Before Yesterday ~ Colin Tudge. Called "The Time Before History" on Amazon.
Stopped me in my tracks. When I read about India crashing in to Asia changing the worlds climate, what we now so narrow-mindedly call pre-history came alive. It helps me think beyond my current projects...

The descriptions of evolution is also eye opening. Very much so in fact.

War In The Age of Intelligent Machines ~ Manuel De Landa
Not so much about the military, this book is more about the "shift in the relation of human beings both to machines and to information". It is written from the perspective of a future robot historian looking back.

Are we merely a catalyst in the evolution of machines reaching consciousness?

The book is also very much concerned with non-organic life and the spontaneous cooperation of parts previously unrelated, becoming a system. "...turbulence is now regarded as a process of self-organization".

I ask; can we develop interfaces to let us see what is happening to us, to humanity, our humanity, our are interfaces merely tentacles for the machines to wrap themselves around our minds?

The Future of the Book ~ Edited by Geoffrey Nunberg
Will computers replace books? I hope you are not asking that common and silly question. This book doesn't either, although it's title sure seems to.

Rather it is an investigation into what a book really is, what it does, what it represents, and how it fits in with other media, primarily computers. "..the critical distinction between 'the book' and other forms of printed matter is not the physical form of the printed word, or the implicit set of social actors that it requires (author, printer, publisher and reader), but rather the mode of temporality that the book establishes between those actors.

The book is a slow form of exchange. The book form serves precisely to defer action, to widen the temporal gap between thought and deed, to create a space for reflection and debate. The book, as Marcel Proust recognized, is a fulcrum that creates space out of time". It is not just the resolution of the computer screen which separates computers and books as is so often referred to when the issue of books becoming obsolete comes up.

It goes on to mirror "Out of Control" when it discusses the "eletronification of the modern literary system"; "Knowledge is no longer that which is contained in a space, but that which passes through it".

A History of Knowledge ~ Charles Van Doren
"The Cosmic Source of Human Creativity". " A book of many "Hmmm...'s" For example; "The Inca never discovered writing". Hmmm.... It serves to remind us, amongst other things, that 'interface' issues didn't just appear when PC's came on the scene.

The Artful Universe ~ John D. Barrow
"The Cosmic Source of Human Creativity". An examination of our place in the Cosmos. "Let us step back from the minutiae of biological evolution on Earth, where vast complexity is promoted by a process that we have come to call 'competition', whereby each species actually seeks a niche that will minimize it's need to compete with rivals".

"Whereas a work of Western art would be displayed continuously, a delicate oriental silkscreen might be unrolled only for occasional periods of silent solitary meditation". How we interface changes what it is.

Why Things Bite Back ~ Edward Tenner
A book which really treat computer systems as part of the rest of our world, not isolated pieces of machinery. If only more systems designers were to read it. "For both technophiles and technophobes, the best, and perhaps the only, way to avoid the revenge effects of computing is to maintain skills and resources that are independent of the computer. We can learn back-of-the-envelope calculation to beware of misplaced decimal points..."

Groupware in the 21st Century ~ Edited by Peter Lloyd
This is where we're going baby! Lets make sure it won't be groupware in virtual cement rooms filled with molasses shall we? "...groupware seeks to open up contacts and channels of influence." It's not about sharing calendars.

White Heat ~ Carroll Pursell
The sub title reads, "People and Technology". It would be easy to call this book a history of interface design since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Hardly computer orientated at all, except of course as we move in to its information age chapter. It's historical perspective is what gives it it's value, as "A History of Knowledge" above, but here from a more direct 'interface' perspective. "Like other technologies, those organized around the storage, transmission, and analysis of information are hardly neutral."

Bringing Design To Software ~ Terry Winograd
About bloody time! Here is a book outlining software design as a philosophy and a profession. Thought provoking and intelligent. "The real work lies in generating a change of perspective that can engender new directions and new ideas." And as in Tog below: "The literal meaning is but the shadow of the meaning in context."

Tog On Software Design ~ Bruce Tognazzini
Filled with great interface insights. "...commercial applications (called 'tool sets' in the Starfire world)," great terminology which helps shape our visions. "Julie's speech recognizer is aware of context" What does it take to give computers context? Not a lot, certainly not fully fledged AI, but it is oh so important.

The Fourth Discontinuity ~ Bruce Mazlish
People aren't separate from their machine. It's that simple.

The Making of Memory ~ Stephen Rose
"Computers process information, people process meaning." What more is there to say? Great insights into man, as machine.

The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design ~ Edited by Brenda Laurel
Lots of very simple, very cool and very thoughtful interface ideas. Has everyone at Apple involved with human computer interaction read it?...

Rob Swigart writes: " Unless we pause from time to time to consider how these metaphors work to create boundaries, and how they shift into new media, they will control us without our knowledge. Or our permission."

Alan Kay: "Though much of what McLuhan wrote was obscure and arguable, the sum total to me was a shock that reverberates even now. The computer is a medium!" And Kay on metaphors: "Fine as far as it goes. But it is the magic-understandable magic- that really counts."

 Catching The Light ~ Arthur Zajonc
A book every artist, no scratch that, a book everyone who uses their eyes should read. It covers theories of light from poetic, scientific and spiritual perspectives throughout history, up to and including quantum physics. Very eloquent, very elucidating and very thought provoking.

"Newton had shown that if one extracted, say, yellow light from the spectrum produced by a prism, and mixed it with orange light similarly produced, then a color intermediate between the two-a yellow orange- appeared. Its particular hue depended on which color dominated the mixture, orange or yellow. (Edwin Land the inventor of instant photography) Land performed the same experiment but with a single important modification. He projected the yellow and orange light beams through black-and-white photographic transparencies. The transparencies depicted an identical still life scene but photographed through different-colored filters. With only the yellow image projected, one saw a purely monochrome -yellow still life on the screen. None of the original colors of the scene were present, only shades of yellow. The same was true when the second image alone was projected through the orange filter. Now however, the still life was entirely in shades of orange. With Newton in mind, what would you expect to see if both images were projected on top of one another? Hues somewhere between yellow and orange as before.? That is what I expected, and most members of the National Academy of Sciences expected the same. However, you do not see yellow oranges, far from it! Reenacting Land's demonstrations with Wilson, I saw what appeared to be a full range of colors I 'knew' simply could not be there! My eyes told me one story, my training as a physicist told me another. What was going on?"

We know so very little about how we input and process information.

The Mind's Sky ~ Timothy Ferris
A history of our view of our selves and the universe with a very interesting idea for the future. Not listed in Amazon, but his book; The Whole Shebang is. "A picture without a frame is not a picture- René Magritte".

Tools And Human Evolution ~ (Scientific American Sep 1960) Sherwood L. Washburn

Don't Tell It magazine ~ August/September 95
For the great Timothy Leary article. I thought he was a nutter til I read this. Boy was I wrong! "The PC is the LSD of the 90's" is just the beginning.

 Note: Most of the links are to Amazon, the online bookstore. Not for any commercial purpose, as we do not have any affiliation with them, it is just for your convenience in finding out more about the books/authors. They have got a pretty good search system. Check 'em out. This list is arbitrary at best, we'd appreciate it if you'd contact us with other titles.

link collections

Human-Computer Interaction Resources on the Net What we can provide you with here cannot rival this site, maintained by Mikael Ericsson, which we recommend highly that you visit.

The HCI Bibliography A free-access online bibliographic database on Human-Computer Interaction. The basic goal of the Project is to put an electronic bibliography for most of HCI on the screens of all researchers, developers, educators and students in the field through the World-Wide Web and anonymous ftp access.


The Bootstrap Institute Doug Engelbarts Organization.

ACM The Association for Computing Machinery.

ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction ACM SIGCHI brings together people working on the design, evaluation, implementation, and study of interactive computing systems for human use. ACM SIGCHI provides an international, interdisciplinary forum for the exchange of ideas about the field of human-computer interaction (HCI)

SIGCHI Curricula in HCI This publication is a report of the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI) Curriculum Development Group.

other HCI issues

WWW Design Issues by Tim Berners Lee These statements of architectural principle explain the thinking behind the specifications. These are personal notes by Tim Berners-Lee: they are not endorsed by W3C. They are aimed at the technical community, to explain reasons, provide a framework to provide consistency for for future developments, and avoid repetition of discussions once resolved.

IBM - What is a user Interface? User Interface (or UI) is one of those jargon-y terms that you hear from computer salespeople and other techno-geeks, but that you may have never heard defined. It's not a hard concept to understand, though. It's simply the parts of a computer and its software that you (the computer user) see, hear, touch, or talk to. It is the set of all the things that allow you and your computer to communicate with each other. For example, if you are reading this on a computer screen, then you're looking at part of a user interface right now. The screen is showing you these words, communicating a message to you.

Usable Web A collection of links about information architecture, human factors, user interface issues, and usable design specific to the World Wide Web.

Interface Hall of Shame The Interface Hall of Shame is an irreverent collection of common interface design mistakes. Their hope is that by highlighting these problems, we can help developers avoid making similar mistakes.

Bad Human Factors Designs
A scrapbook of illustrated examples of things that are hard to use because they do not follow human factors principles.

Guide to Usability for Software Engineers
The Guide to Usability for Software Engineering is a collection of pages created by the University of Maryland, Masters of Software Engineering, Fall 98, Usability Engineering class (MSWE 613). The collection is intended for software engineers and usability engineering practitioners to find relevant resources on the Web. Sections Include: Methodologies - Management - Standards - Tools - Java UI Tools - Testing - Metrics - Formal methods - Education - Conferences

other stuff

MacKiDo Insightful Mac and general UI site.

Hey, stuff this! Insightfull views and reviews on the computer industry...

the ONION | Number One In News What can I say, peel away the onion skins...


"I went to my first computer conference at the New York Hilton about 20 years ago. When somebody there predicted the market for microprocessors would eventually be in the millions, someone else said, 'Where are they all going to go? It's not like you need a computer in every doorknob!'"

"Years later, I went back to the same hotel. I noticed the room keys had been replaced by electronic cards you slide into slots in the doors."

"There was a computer in every doorknob."
Danny Hillis

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."
Charles H. Duell, commissioner of the US Office of Patents 1899.

"I think there is a world market for about five computers."
Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM 1943

"Truth subverts creativity"
John Adams (Syracuse University Professor of Rhetoric)

"Norman's goal is not to develop isolated leading technology but to build a useful combination of computers and communications through understanding how people interact with one-another and the technology."
(MacWeek 09.11.95 p28) Don Norman - Apple Interface guy.

"The changes that tomorrow's computer interfaces are going to cause in the minds of millions of people are good and necessary, considering the fact that we are entering the home stretch in our race against extinction. Personal computers that evolve from contraptions to companions in less than one human life span are part of an overall acceleration of the biosphere's system for becoming conscious enough to take control. The cellular circuit resonates with the neural circuit, the communication circuit, and the whole planet waking up to itself in the nick of time."

"I predict that if interfaces are designed with the notion of interpersonal communication in mind, the information technologies of the next ten years are going to link amplified individual minds into a global groupmind."

"Interactivity is interpersonal..." "The personal computer is becoming the interpersonal computer."

"The right kind of interface design can take advantage of the worlds evolving communications web and turn our screens into windows on one another's minds"
Timothy Leary (T.A.O.I.F.D.p23

"Today we live in an information-based technological world. The problem is that this is an invisible technology. Knowledge and information are invisible. They have no natural form. It is up to the conveyer of the information and knowledge to provide shape, substance and organization...
The best artifacts will become invisible, fitting the task so perfectly that they will merge with it."
Don Norman (T.T.M.U.S. p 104/5)

"Roy Williams, a researcher at the California Institute of Technology's Center for Advanced Computing Research, estimates that all the information from all of human history stored on paper in the world today amounts to about 200 petabytes. A byte roughly equals a printed character. So a petabyte is about one quadrillion (or thousand trillion) characters. That figure includes all the paper in corporate filing cabinets, all government archives, all homes, all schools, universities, and libraries.
By the year 2000, Williams estimates, the amount of online information that will have accumulated in just a the few decades leading up to the new millennium will be about two and a half times that amount now on paper."
Evan I. Schwartz - Webonomics

"More information has been produced in the last 30 years than in the previous 5,000. About 1,000 books are published internationally every day, and the total of all printed knowledge doubles every eight years"
Peter Large (Information Anxiety)

"Thus far we seem to be worse off than ever before - for we can enormously extend the record; yet even in it's present bulk we can hardly consult it."
Vannevar Bush, The Atlantic Monthly 1945

"Everyone spoke of an information overload, but what there was in fact was a non-information overload."
Richard Saul Wurman
What-If, Could be

I still have a dream that the Web could be less of a television and more of an interactive sea of shared knowledge.
Tim Berners-Lee
At the MIT Media Laboratory's News in the Future symposium, May 24 1996

I chose HTML not to be a programming language because I wanted different programs to do different things with it: present it differently, extract tables of contents, index it, and so on.
Tim Berners-Lee
Axioms of Web architecture 

"When you design a system, or a langauge, then if the features can be broken into relatively loosely bound groups of relatively closely bound features, then that division is a good thing to be made a part of the design. This is just good engineering. It means that when you want to change the system, you can with luck in the future change only one part, which will only require you to understand (and test) that part. This will allow other people to independently change other parts at the same time. This is just classic good software design and books have been written about it. The corollary, the TOII is less frequently met. Modular design hinges on the simplicity and abstract nature of the interface definition between the modules. A design in which the insides of each module need to know all about each other is not a modular design but an arbitrary partitioning of the bits." Tim Berners-Lee
Axioms of Web architecture

"Over the last several years LANs, WANs and dial-up communications have become nearly ubiquitous media for file-sharing, printer-sharing and e-mail. What is new - and growing - is the demand for, and supply of, software which exploits this network infrastructure to improve everyday business processes. Software which assumes the availability of communications, establishes group computing as absolutely essential, rather than merely useful, to the successful enterprise. The demand for such software will accelerate as the global business climate grows ever more competitive and dynamic. In this climate, knowledge is a company's fundamental asset."
Jeff Papows and Justin Fielding Sr in Groupware in the 21st Century

"The phrase networked computing may soon join horse less carriage as a quaint , turn-of-the-century relic."
Jeff Papows and Justin Fielding Sr - Groupware in the 21st Century

"Mobile computing is going to give the computer industry a very severe case of culture shock. Historically, the culture has always been that the user goes to the data. The new culture is that the data follows the user."
Tim Keen - Groupware in the 21st Century

"Unfortunately, the fact is that e-mail is pretty crude stuff. It's likely to stay that way, to be honest, for quite some time. Its strength is that it is easy to understand, shows the user immediate benefits and has wide cross platform support. At the end of the day, however, it does little more than pass unstructured, plain text from one address to another"

"We might also observe that the greatest impact comes from simple technology, widely implemented. Simple e-mail will become the great groupware enabling technology. "
Tim Keen - Groupware in the 21st Century

"Any technology sufficiently advanced is magic"
Isaac Aasimov

 "By three million years ago, the left side of the brain of the tiny Australopithecus differed from the right, the slightly larger left side handling manipulative, tool-making abilities.The hands were now more precise, capable of complex movement. The eyes could see into the distance as well as coordinate hand movements and this led to an increase in the informational capacity of the brain. Busy brains are big brains, and so by two and a half million years ago hominid brain size had doubled. Two handedness. Coupled with an enhanced ability to process information in the brain, took hominids to the next stage of evolution. The new type is called Homo Habilis."

"Habilis changed the course of history, because they were able to shape pebbles into flint tools , and these tools could and advantageously help them to manipulate their environment. It was this ability of these first axemakers that would break the cycle that had bound us to nature and that over the following two million years would imperil all life on the planet."

"The first primitive tools, simple cobbles made by fractures and used 2.6 million years ago for cutting and scraping, were found in what's now Ethiopia. Then pebble-axes gave habilis the cutting edge with tools that would not only bring change to the environment but also release the tool-user forever from the slow development of natural process. Now tools could supplant biological evolution as the main source of change."

"Axes made it possible to build shelters and construct primitive settlements, and they physically changed the world once and for all. This, in turn, changed hominid behavioral patterns because the tools also permitted habilis to go hunting. More important they went hunting in groups, and this was to prove a meaningful thing to do. First of all it changed the working day and then it changed the menu. Previously, foraging in the bushes for enough fruits and berries to feed a small community would consume a great deal of time, but now a small group of tool-using hunters could being home enough from a single chase to support several families on meat for days."
James Burke & Robert Ornstein "The Axemakers Gift" Tarcher/Putnam 1997 ISBN 0-87477-856-5 page 10.

Isocrates was a great speech teacher who believed that it is language which separates us from animals. He believes that there are three essentials for learning, natural ability, training and practice. This is where it gets interesting, he maintained that "learning to speak properly was tantamount to learning to think properly (TRoWT p 46/47).

"Wherever there is persuasion there is rhetoric. And wherever there is 'meaning' there is 'persuasion'".
Kenneth Burke


More and more of the information stored online is stored in the informal conversational way of Usenet News Groups, which, according to A Primer on How to Work with the Usenet Community has an estimated 22,000,000 users.

This must surely be the fastest growing un structured, distributed, democratic repository of information the world has ever seen. It's growing fast and it's a mess. A huge mess- Usenet News Groups consists of approximately 30,000 different discussion groups from around the world, generating approximately 7 to 10 GB of data each week!

"Computer conferencing enables us to talk, teach, inform, learn, find, debate, gossip, commiserate and share jokes in a way no earlier communications medium made possible."
"Much of the effectiveness of this new medium derives from a structure which enables users to receive and send information only on subjects on which they have previously declared a formal interest."
Ed Hastead - Groupware in the 21st Century


"Broadcast adds as much distance as it takes away. By bringing a rock group closer to millions, the broadcast also creates an emotional distance between the performer and the audience which stays even if the physical distance disappears. In fact it tends to get even more intensified. The same goes for men and women through the broadcast of the 'best,' the 'models' of what it is to be a woman. And vice versa. And for one on one relationships. Letters, emails and phone calls create as much of a fantasy of the other person as the distance brings together."
FAH 2000

It is the process that defines us.

The power of the Internet = Moores Law*Metcalfs Law


McLuhan Quotes