Chapter 13. Digital Interaction

I don’t design stuff for myself. I’m a toolmaker. I design things that other people want to use.


Interfaces and Humans

WHEN WE INTERFACE WITH DIGITAL SYSTEMS, we’re doing so through many layers of abstraction, so it’s necessary to provide environmental elements that we can recognize and understand. That’s essentially what computer interfaces are: artificial environments that bridge the gap between digital information’s total symbolic abstraction and our perceptual systems’ need for affordance, whether physical or simulated.

It’s easy to forget that the word “interface” isn’t necessarily about people. For many years, the word mainly had to do with how one machine interoperates with another. For example, an API is an application programming interface with which software engineers can make two applications share functions and data; and the acronym SCSI means Small Computer System Interface—a hardware standard for connecting devices and peripherals such as hard drives and personal computers (see Figure 13-1, left). Like most things related to digital systems, software and hardware interfaces work best when they are rigorously defined and kept to an efficient minimum, such as with a keyboard (Figure 13-1, right) or mouse. Overlapping, extraneous, or ambiguously defined interfaces are anathema to efficient, reliable digital system design.

Figure 13-1. Left: A “terminator” for a Small Computer System Interface, ...

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