Past and Future of Human-Computer Interaction

Human Computer Interactions started with the first computer, and will continue to evolve until our brain is directly connected to the computer.

  • We tend to reduce the barrier between human and computer
  • As a consequence, we reduce the barrier between human and human

Brain-computer interfaces are about to emmerge, meaning that we will have access to brain to brain human communication, but this is another story.

First interactions with computers

The very first programmable computer was a robot – a programmable automaton – created at the end of the 18th century in Switzerland by Pierre Jacquet-Droz. The first human-computer interaction consisted in positioning elements on a wheel (human to computer), and to read the text written by the programmable robot (computer to human).

First Human Computer Interaction

The first electronic based human computer interaction – and the first contact with the binary world – happened with the Colossus in 1943. The interface is composed of physical switches, plugs and lights.

First electronic based human computer interaction

Evolution of the human-computer interaction

The manipulation of physical elements was progressively replaced by a generic keyboard, mouse and touch panel.

The barrier between the human and the computer tends to disappear.

  • We need generic interfaces so the function is not limited by the physical aspect
  • We continuously need to optimize this interface to be more productive

Computer to Human Interface

Computer Screen

The computer screen was the first evolution of the human-computer interaction with a generic, non physical way to transmit information from the computer to the human.

The first computer monitor is attributed to the Situation Display, a system console part of the Chain Home radars in 1944.

In this video, we can see a text based user interface common in 1980. The developers had to user special character sets to create the graphics, as the pixels composing the display could not be addressed individually.

Quick facts

  • The first computer screen was monochrome and could not display graphics.
  • Today computer screens are available in any size from 0.27 inches to 172,220 square feet.
  • Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality also makes use of computer screens to transmit the information from the computer to the human.
The teleyeglasses, or virtual reality headset was dreamt up in 1968 by Hugo Gernsback.

Sound, Lights and Haptics

The screen is still a main element of the computer to human communication, but other elements are involved.

  • The lights was the main display for the early electronic computers and are still used
  • The audio, with a growing use for natural language based interaction and virtual reality
  • The haptics is the use of sense of touch to transmit information from the computer to the human

Human to Computer Interface


The keyboard is older than the computer, and the first keyboard was very different than today’s keyboard.

in 1870, the Writing Ball by Hansen was the first typewriter manufactured commercially


Different types of pointing devices emerged but the mouse was adopted by most of us. The original mouse was created in 1963.

SRI engineer Bill English built the first Engelbart mouse prototype.

Touch screen

The touch screens exists since 1982.

They was confined to industrial uses and are now more and more used. The touch area and the screen are two different elements and some objects can be touch sensitive even if they do not display information. Touch feedback can be visual or haptics.

Natural Language

It is more and more common to use natural language with a growing number of objects. Natural language is, in many situations, much efficient than text, mouse or touch input. However, it is limited by the language itself: slow, and restricted to textual and conceptual information.

Mixed Interface

Most of the computer has mixed interfaces to interact with the users. The minimum is a keyboard and screen display, or a touch screen, but sky is the limit.

Steve Job would not be a fan of this mixed interface, imagined in 1945 and involving keyboard and pen input. The mouse, or even the touch screen, are far more efficient.
The Sensorama was a earliest known examples of immersive, multi-sensory technology invented by Morton Heilig in 1955.
Usier interface of the General Dynamics Lunar Excursion Module
Tangible user interface is a user interface in which a person interacts with digital information through the physical environment.
Airbus Vision of a touch based user interface with transparent, curved screens.
Futuristic user interface where the whole space seems to be a touch screen.

Brain-computer interaction

The Future of Brain-computer interaction

Brain computer interaction is emerging and it is a question of time before we all use it.

  • Most efficient way to transmit any kind of information our brain can process.
  • Brain computer interaction enables human to human brain communication.
In 1965, brain connected computer was already in people’s mind.
A vision of the electronic book, involving an analog interface. Many other forms of interaction with a computer will be explored in the future as we did in the paste…

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