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comment Why did early telephones use a rotary dial instead of 10 individual buttons?
For push-button dialing, one could use the approach taken by restaurant juke box remote controls systems--push a latching button, and have the machine unlatch in when ready for the next digit. That would probably be more annoying than using a dial, however. An electromechanical or wind-up type-ahead buffer would probably not be hugely difficult, but if digits will have to be outpulsed before the call can connect, I'm not sure it would be worth the complexity.
Apr
15
comment Why did early telephones use a rotary dial instead of 10 individual buttons?
The concepts of using a spring-driven wheel to create patterns of interruption in an electrical circuit predates the telephone by decades. I wouldn't be surprised if some stock tickers actually use something very much like a telephone dial to allow the operator to select how many pulses to send.
Apr
6
comment Applicability of Fitts law in expert user scenarios
Historically, hitting "open" on a document in Macintosh Finder would mean the computer wouldn't be able to do anything useful for the next minute or so while one waited for the application to load. If one hadn't actually intended to open the document, one would then have to wait another minute or so for the Finder to reload. Nobody uses floppies today, of course, but when the interface was designed, "opening" a document wasn't as safe a default operation as it would be today.
Apr
4
comment Are some of Windows 7's UI less intuitive than previous versions?
I wonder if there would be any way to add a little "speed bump" at the bottom-right edge of the taskbar, so that to go to something on the second screen one had to either go up and over it or else pause and resume moving?
Apr
4
comment The missing “Folder Up” button in Windows Explorer in Vista and Win7
...if the person was e.g. 4 levels down, the effects would differ. Having something that will "go up one level" regardless of the current nesting would ease the thought burden in cases where that's what the person wanted to do.
Apr
4
comment The missing “Folder Up” button in Windows Explorer in Vista and Win7
An aversion to having multiple commands with have the same immediate effect makes it necessary to attach a single semantic meaning to any desired immediate effect; this will compel people who want to achieve a semantic meaning which differs from the one implemented to figure out which command will achieve the intended result. By contrast, having different commands with different meanings, even if their behaviors are often the same, avoids the need for such thought. If a person is 3 levels down, "go to second level" and "go up one" will have the same effect, but...
Mar
25
comment Conditional ordering of a thread list, cognitive load?
How about a single scrollable list which includes a heading "Featured messages", then messages which contain new content of interest, followed by the heading "All messages" and all content?
Mar
17
comment Best way to create a timespan GUI element?
@MarcDingena: While using a logarithmic scale might be cleaner mathematically, I think from a UI perspective it would be better to use a piecewise-linear scale, with clear markings for where the changes in scale factor occur. The range where each scale factor is in effect should be marked at intervals which are multiples of the start of the scale; the spacing of units for different scales need not be uniform, but should be adjusted so that the screen length of each scale is somewhat proportional to the log of the ratio between the times represented at the ends of it).
Mar
14
comment Analog Clock or Digital Clock to tell the time
For a web-site clock, going digital will in many cases make it easier for someone to tell at a glance how the time the web site compares with either the local time on the computer, or a stated time (e.g. "orders placed before 7pm cst ship same day"). Showing a digital clock which reads "6:45pm" would make it clear the user has 15 minutes to prepare an order; showing an analog clock would require the user translate either the "7pm" to analog format or recognize analog clock to "quarter to 7" to do the comparison, unless the analog clock included a visual indication of time remaining.
Mar
11
answered When does delete not mean delete?
Mar
7
comment Hierarchical/flat comment system
That would probably help, but better still IMHO might be to have distinct choices for "continue thread" or "create new thread". Otherwise, it will be unclear whether the first or second reply to a post should be considered a continuation of its discussion thread.
Mar
7
comment What is a good way to display infinite nested comments?
...will make it impossible for the system to know which things should really be shown at the same level. Letting commenters specify whether they're continuing a thread or starting a new one would make it easier to keep nesting under control.
Mar
7
comment What is a good way to display infinite nested comments?
I think the biggest reason things end up with absurd nesting is that an inability to distinguish between "continue thread" and "start new thread". In the situation where there's been one post and one reply, there are at least three things one may wish to do: start a new thread talking about the original post, which has nothing to do with the reply, continue the thread started by the first reply, or start a new thread talking just about some aspect of the first reply. Trying to represent three intentions with just two choices (reply to original, or reply to first comment)...
Mar
3
comment What text should be used for an insertion button? “Create”, “New” or “Add”?
@MickaelCaruso: In some interfaces, depending upon the number of items, drag and drop may be unwieldy. Spreadsheets are among applications which benefit from being able to insert things directly (though spreadsheets are two-dimensional, and the facility can be useful with one-dimensional lists as well). Something like a task list could also benefit from such a feature if a task needs to be done immediately before or after some other task, especially if the list of tasks gets a little bigger than the screen (too much bigger, and the UI may need reworking regardless).
Mar
3
answered For a streaming music service, should clicking play on an album, add to the start or end of queue? Or play immediately?
Mar
3
comment What text should be used for an insertion button? “Create”, “New” or “Add”?
If one is using a data model where record ordering is significant, I would think "insert" would be appropriate to indicate that an item should be added at the present "cursor" position (if a record is selected, offer "Insert before" and/or "insert after" unless it will be obvious), while "Add" should add an item at the end, regardless of the cursor position.
Feb
26
comment Why web-safe colors only?
Windows used 20 colors for system purposes; I think the Macintosh used about that many. I think Netscape decided to use 216 colors because it's 6x6x6, which yields six proper grays. Some other combinations combinations (e.g. 6x9x4) might have yielded better looking color photographs due to the eye's higher sensitivity to green and lower sensitivity to red, but wouldn't be able to show any "gray" tones that weren't tinged with color.
Feb
26
comment Why web-safe colors only?
There were generally more than 216 colors available; in Windows I believe there were 236. On the other hand, a color scheme in which can use any combination of six red, six green, and six blue values is easier to work with than one where the available set of red values depends upon the green and blue values, etc. Some platforms use different numbers of red, green, and blue values but that often makes things that should be gray often turn out off-gray.
Feb
20
comment Why is the mouse cursor slightly tilted and not straight?
The execution time for adding coordinates is a non-factor. The real simplification-related benefit to having an upper-left-corner hotspot comes from the fact that the top and left edges won't need clipping. On some hardware sprite implementations, the only way to get clean clipping at the left screen edge is to shift data left within the shape, which is more work than simply requiring the whole cursor to fit on screen, but doesn't require so much work as to be unmanageable.
Feb
20
comment Why is the mouse cursor slightly tilted and not straight?
@Brendan: Having the mouse cursor animating constantly when one isn't using it would simply be annoying. On the other hand, it can be useful to have a keystroke defined which causes an indicator to "zoom in" on the mouse cursor.