Interacting with computers

This is not a so much technical post. Instead it shows what I’ve come to observe for some time now. You can call this midnight ramblings of a curious mind.

Initially users interacted with their terminals via text. Keyboard commands ruled the all mighty PC. They were pre-defined, had a specific syntax and could do a lot of stuff. And I do not speak about programming here, just day-to-day operations.

Then the mouse and GUI’s entered the scene. Suddenly users were no longer confined to a list of need-to-know-to-start-my-machine words. The mouse brought freedom. True, the amount of work you could do with the mouse at first was limited, but options grew as the programs grew and started to use the new tool. The command line remained a thing of the dinosaurs and the uber-geek, or the IT pros.

Now search seems to take its turn in the evolutionary chain. More and more users “search” as an action. Want to start Word? Just hit the hotkey to pop up the launcher (or hit the Start key in Vista) and type its name. Then launch it. Need a document? Why browse through the thousand folders when a few letters from it typed inside the preferred tool for desktop search can bring it forward instantly. The same is true for the web. Google-ing is a term as well known now as the ubiquitous RTFM (read the freaking manual) was in the console/terminal days. Now we don’t remember web addresses, we search for them. And when we need to store them, we use del.icio.us or other tool that, you guessed it, lets us SEARCH through them.

Granted, the search paradigm hasn’t caught yet everywhere, but its popularity is rising. And the fact that Vista’s search menu or Suse’s launcher menu use a search bar as the first point of entry can only speed things up. Also, the need for search to become prevalent and able to find everything in our virtual lives came as a response to a problem: more information than one can handle or organize. Search answered this problem in a simple way – by saying do not remember. Do not store megabytes of files with URL’s. Do not remember the entire name of that use-once-a-month program or where to get it in the first place. Just give me a hint and I will find it for you.

I wonder what will come next? How will we control, manage and find information next? maybe we’ll just move search back to the tool status that it always had or maybe we’ll keep it in the center of our virtual worlds and simply find another, better or more unique way of communicating what we want / need to find. Only time will tell.

Until then, can you last a day without searching?  Or at least are you conscious where you use search?

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