Archive for November, 2012

User-Unfriendliness of personal technologies

November 8, 2012

Historian of technology Joseph Corn has written a fine book called “User Unfriendly: Consumer Struggles with Personal Technologies, from Clocks and Sewing Machines to Cars and Computers”. Corn analyses the user unfriendliness for early adopters of a range of personal technologies, primarily clocks, sewing machines, cars and computers as these are archetypical examples of personal technologies. His main claim is that none of these technologies subjected consumers to the hell like cars and computers.

I have written a paper about the book called “Of Cars, Computers and Hell: A Historical Perspective on User Unfriendliness of Personal Technologies” for the Danish HCI Symposium 2012. See abstract below and download the 4-page paper in pdf.

Abstract
In today’s fascination by sleek and powerful computing technology it is tempting to forget the origin of the technology. Highly relevant to HCI in this regard is a recent book by historian of technology Joseph Corn “User Unfriendly: Consumer Struggles with Personal Technologies, from Clocks and Sewing Machines to Cars and Computers”. Corn analyses the user unfriendliness for early adopters of a range of personal technologies, primarily clocks, sewing machines, cars and computers as these are archetypical examples of personal technologies. His main claim is that none of these technologies subjected consumers to the hell like cars and computers. Based on a thorough analysis of contem-porary accounts by early adopters, Corn convincingly drives home his point. This paper presents and discusses Corn’s book and main line of argument. The purpose of the paper is to sensitize the HCI community to the historical perspective.