An Open Letter to Don Norman: The Era of the Smartphone

Hi Mr. Norman, (if you do end up seeing this after all),

I’m reading your book The Design of Everyday Things, and I came across a particularly lucid prediction that you must’ve wrote well before ’88, the year DOET was copyrighted:

“Would you like a pocket size device that reminded you of each appointment and daily event? I would. I am waiting for the day when portable computers become small enough that I can keep one with me at all times. (…) The technology I need is available today. It’s just that the full package had never been put together, partly because the cost in today’s world would be prohibitive. But it will exist in an imperfect firm in five years, possibly in perfect form in ten.”

Well, I don’t think you would call the smartphone quite what you’re looking for, at least not in its modern incarnation. It doesn’t have a typewriter keyboard, although I do like the HTC Sense input scheme (learned after watching my friend fiddle around with his phone for about twenty seconds – I think it’s the sort of software design you’d really like for that :). And your timeframe may have been a tad optimistic.

But better late than never. The age of the truly portable computer, the smartphone, is upon us – and personally, I rather like this little do-whatever-you-need gadget. For me, to date, it’s been a remote, an internet browser, a quick and dirty sound recorder for musical ideas, a time tracker, a gateway to internet-based commerce, a time keeper, a gaming device, and oh yeah, a phone every now and then.

Now the only thing I wish it has was a unified look and feel across all its apps. But I guess I can wait 5/10/25 years for that leap.

Best wishes, you wrote an inspiring book. -Andrew

P.S., guess what I wrote this on.

Posted from WordPress for Android


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