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Looking at the textbooks of the courses I’m taking gives an interesting view of their authors and by extenstion the mindset of people in that part of the industry.

The AI textbook was clearly written by hackers (look at the definition if you think this is a pejorative term). It’s lucid, written with a sense of humor, and has lots of examples and visual aids. Anyone used to doing the CS thing could easily take this textbook and read it straight through, or look in the index and read through a section of interest quickly and easily. More importantly, they could immediately apply what they learned. It is presented simply, directly, and engagingly.

On the other hand, the Human-Computer Interfaces textbook seems to have been written by people who, like William Gibson, have never actually used a computer but have heard of them and have clear ideas of how they should be operated. The illustrations are nearly all screen captures of programs that were dated even when the book was published, and the most interaction with the computer that the authors expect is for the designer to watch and take surveys of users interacting with the computer. You keep seeing notions about the elderly being afraid of computers, and how computer games are an interesting but trivial case. The majority of the book is concerned with text-based systems, with very few references to GUI applications and their proper design. The user is in nearly all cases supposed to interact with the program with special commands and control key sequences.

The biggest problem with the book is that it is simply dated. There have been a lot of developments in human-computer interaction since computers became graphical beasts, and the book ignores most of them. It doesn’t even mention how users in games perform complex actions within a game-world as fast if not faster than they could in reality through efficient control mechanisms. Most of all, it doesn’t feel like it was written by, or for, a programmer. It’s the type of book that a pointy-haired-boss would read to learn about the subject, not something I would reccomend for an actual programmer or interface designer.

Unfortunately, I get the feeling that this class is just going to reinforce my dislike for implementing code that actually deals directly with the user.

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