Summary of Leonardo's Laptop

Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies

MIT Press,
First Edition: 2002 more...

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Leonardo's Laptop book summary
New computing is in; old computing is out. What information technology could do for you.


7 Overall

7 Applicability

7 Innovation

8 Style


Leonardo da Vinci put people first in both engineering and art, noting that “work must commence with the conception of man.” Unfortunately, many software and hardware engineers treat the user as an annoying afterthought. Ben Shneiderman is different. Taking Leonardo as his muse, and providing a light sprinkling of biographical facts about the ultimate Renaissance Man, Shneiderman presents a simple, compelling framework for understanding the way that people want to work with information technology. This award-winning book offers a crash course in user-centered design. getAbstract recommends it to anyone who works with software, hardware or Web applications (and who doesn’t these days?). Shneiderman describes what you should demand from technology providers. If Leonardo had been a computer scientist, this is the sort of book he would have written. Here’s to Renaissance 2.0.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why so much computer technology is poorly designed;
  • How people use this technology to fulfill their social requirements;
  • How computer engineers can do a better job; and
  • Why user-centered design must be the engineer’s primary consideration.


Dangerous Technology
Poorly implemented information technologies and badly designed software with confusing layouts can damage your health in more ways than one. Losing data or services as your hard drive or server fails, and watching as hours of work disappear into the ether, is something...
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About the Author

Ben Shneiderman is professor of computer science and founding director of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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