Summary of Leonardo's Laptop

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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.

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.



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 that every computer user has experienced at one time or another. To add to your frustration, baffling error messages pop up, giving you little choice but to switch off and start again. Although the wasted time is annoying, poorly designed technology rarely does little more than just cost you a few hours’ work. Occasionally, though, it can maim and even kill.

The Therac-25 was a radiation therapy device controlled by software with a poorly designed user interface and sloppy documentation. Rather than treating patients with controlled doses of radiation, it burned them. One patient’s burns were so extensive that her breast had to be surgically removed. Another patient jumped off the table during treatment because of the pain. Doctors could not believe the machine was at fault and continued to use it, partly because the error logs (computer files that collect error messages) either ...

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