What’s the Point?

Pointing choices were pretty few in the beginning

Life used to be simpler in the early days of portable computing. When it came to cursor movement and selecting targets, there really weren’t many choices for getting things done. Either you used a clumsy trackball contraption that clipped to the side of the computer, an external mouse, or you owned a ThinkPad. The TrackPoint really blazed new territory when it came to integrated pointing. IBM ran an entertaining television commercial in the early 1990′s showcasing the TrackPoint advantage while flying on a business trip. You can watch it here. It really brings back some memories of how it used to be. Eventually some companies started placing marble size Trackballs on palm-rests, and eventually touch pads came into the picture. The first versions were rather skimpy by today’s standards.

Those clip on trackball things always reminded me of drive-in table trays.

A lot has changed since the early 1990′s. Portable computers are faster, lighter, and stronger for sure. From a human interaction perspective, It’s also  not just about controlling a cursor and selecting a target. Touch interfaces are everywhere we look: ATM machines, gas pumps, smart phones, tablets, even my home thermostat uses a touch interface. For a design team, it’s very important that we understand trends in technology, but also changes in human behavior, expectations, and interaction models.

To further understand the current landscape, I thought it would be good to survey Design Matters readers about their current preferences for pointing on notebook computers. The survey should take just a few minutes to complete, but the results could help me shape the future of pointing. Access the survey by pointing and clicking here. Thanks for taking your time to help us learn more about how you use your computer.

David Hill