Mark Weiser (originally written for ACM Interactions).
What is the metaphor for the computer of the future? The intelligent agent? The television (multimedia)? The 3-D graphics world (virtual reality)? The StarTrek ubiquitous voice computer? The GUI desktop, honed and refined? The machine that magically grants our wishes? I think the right answer is “none of the above”, because I think all of these concepts share a basic flaw: they make the computer visible.
A good tool is an invisible tool. By invisible, I mean that the tool does not intrude on your consciousness; you focus on the task, not the tool. Eyeglasses are a good tool – you look at the world, not the eyeglasses. The blind man tapping the cane feels the street, not the cane. Of course, tools are not invisible in themselves, but as part of a context of use. With enough practice we can make many apparently difficult things disappear: my fingers know vi editing commands that my conscious mind has long forgotten. But good tools enhance invisibility.
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