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6000 Years of Device Design

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Spring Clocks circa 1400 AD


I was wondering the other day what the earliest device was. And this was my guess: spring-
w...
Water Clocks circa 4000 BC

Water clocks for telling time circa 4000 BC. Missed it by that much. Even between 4000 BC
and ...
Kites circa 800 BC

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6000 Years of Device Design

  1. 1. Spring Clocks circa 1400 AD I was wondering the other day what the earliest device was. And this was my guess: spring- wound clocks from Germany from the start of the Renaissance. But I was way, way off. If we use as the criteria that devices, unlike tools, don’t utilize human muscle to power them, the earliest devices were 5000 years earlier:
  2. 2. Water Clocks circa 4000 BC Water clocks for telling time circa 4000 BC. Missed it by that much. Even between 4000 BC and 1400 AD, there were quite a few important devices:
  3. 3. Kites circa 800 BC
  4. 4. Compass circa 400 BC
  5. 5. Astrolabe circa 150 BC
  6. 6. Antikythera Mechanism circa 100 BC The first known calculator.
  7. 7. Handgun circa 700 AD Not all these devices were benevolent of course...
  8. 8. Eyeglasses 1284 AD All of this before we even get to 1400. 600 years ago, and 500 years before electricity.
  9. 9. 6000 Years of Device Design All in all, we’re talking about 6000 years of device design. Strangely enough, our needs haven’t much changed thoughout the centuries. Devices help answer the most profound questions of what it is to be a human.
  10. 10. Understand the World Telescope 1608 AD What is this? How does this work?
  11. 11. Find Yourself in the World Sextant 1757 AD Where am I? How do I get from one place to another?
  12. 12. Document the World Camera 1826 AD How do I remember? How do I remember the faces of the dead and gone?
  13. 13. Communicate Typewriter 1829 AD How do I tell you who I am? How can I connect with other people?
  14. 14. Change the World Flashlight 1899 AD How can I make the environment I live in better?
  15. 15. Augment Muscle Electric washing machine 1906 AD How I can I be stronger, faster, more efficient?
  16. 16. Healing Artificial heart 1952 AD How I can I feel well?
  17. 17. Augment Intelligence Electric calculator 1957 AD How can I be smarter and think bigger thoughts?
  18. 18. Entertain Digital Audio Player 1996 AD How can I stave off loneliness and fear and replace it with music and dance?
  19. 19. Devices change. People’s needs... not so much. People use devices for deep human needs. We should never forget that.
  20. 20. Although certainly our users have high expectations for us now. Users get used to a level of technology speed, power, and execution. [Louis CK clip]
  21. 21. The future is not Google-able. William Gibson Where do we go from here? How do we design the future?
  22. 22. Use an integrated process. All the design disciplines: sound, visual, interaction, and industrial can come together to create devices that are more holistic.
  23. 23. Research and test throughout the design process. Find the human moments in research that can inform your design, like the battery that rolls onto the floor.
  24. 24. Design for implicit interactions. Look for the NOT subtle cues you can give in your devices so our devices can be more proactive. Try to find the hand that starts to open the door.
  25. 25. Consider how information can be a material. What can data do to shape your devices?
  26. 26. Consider how information can be a material. Consider your devices in a systematic way, as though part of a natural ecology.
  27. 27. Deliver right things at the right time to the right people on the right devices. One size doesn’t fit all. Consider your devices in a systematic way, as though part of a natural ecology.
  28. 28. Corrupt your process and go deep when you have to. Organizations bring their own challenges to getting things done. Don’t let them stop you.
  29. 29. Ride shotgun for the user. Users don’t get a seat at the table. It’s our job to speak for them. Have empathy.
  30. 30. End the tyrrany of false simplicity. Gretchen picks up this theme. Beware of too much simplicity and don’t infanilize your users. People don’t stop being people when they get sick.
  31. 31. Use science fiction to change expectations for what we do. Stories matter more than features, specs, and engineering. As Alan Kay said, the best way to predict the future is to make it.
  32. 32. It has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things...who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom. Barack Obama May we all be the people who, device by device, answer the big questions of humans, just like we’ve been doing for 6000 years, and carry humanity up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.

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