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By Ben Shneiderman. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Pr., 2002. 288 p. $24.95 (ISBN 0-262-19476-7).
Ben Shneiderman, author of Designing the User Interface (Addison-Wesley, 1997), has written a new book. Head of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland for nearly twenty years, Shneiderman is one of the gurus of human-computer interaction (HCI). Leonardo's Laptop is also concerned with HCI, although it is a broader and more expansive treatment than found in his previous work.
Schneiderman proposes in Leonardo's Laptop that the genius of Leonardo da Vinci can be applied to the burgeoning world of usability, not only as a touchstone for comparison but as an inspiration as well. For example, he states, "The creative genius of Leonardo ... has inspired technologists, scientists, and artists for more than half a millennium. His Renaissance integration of engineering with human values could be the path to appealing artifacts and provocative dreams" (3). His invocation of the greatness of da Vinci throughout the book in relation to usability is only partly successful, but given this ambition of Shneiderman that may have been inevitable.
Perhaps most successful in this work are Shneiderman's fantasies of what da Vinci might think of some of the up-and-coming tools of today and the future. For example, da Vinci carried tablets of several sizes to jot down notes and make drawings; therefore, he would probably be interested in PDAs, desktop computers, and wallsized displays. Not an entirely new insight, but Shneiderman extends the …