As the CSC300 course winds down, we spend some time talking about the future of human-computer interaction. We are at a stage in the progress of technology such that every gadget one uses can conceivably be operated by methods such as touch, voice and motion sensing, things that even a few years ago were in the form of impractical prototypes. In just a decade, personal computers have gone beyond desktops or laptops and have taken many forms, most notably mobile telephones and tablets. In 2011, Apple and IBM made waves around the tech community with their claims of the post-PC era.
However, as exciting as it is for this new crop of innovative consumer products, we must ask ourselves the question of whether the new devices with their non-traditional user interfaces are as good as handling some tasks that we have been doing on desktop PCs for decades. It is undeniable that touchscreen devices are better at many things than the PC, such as drawing, and some programs are simply more intuitive with touch-based interfaces. And of course, there’s the added bonus of portability, arguably even more so than laptop PCs. With that being said, however, I don’t think many people would like to write code on a tablet. Or do heavy word-processing. Or HD video encoding. In response to the post-PC claims, PC World wrote an article about why the desktop PC will always have a place alongside the newer gadgets.
While few will dispute the importance of pushing for innovation in our world today, we have to be careful not to lose ourselves in the hype surrounding new technologies, and to not change just for its own sake, but for the sake of making a certain task easier to perform. If some things are still best done with existing technology, then until we find a better way (which I don’t doubt), it’s best to just stick with it for now.