The success of these two applications, which have accounted for the purchase of a large percentage of the desktop computers sold to date, led to attempts to make other applications as transparent to the user and thus as accessible to mass markets. Applications which paralleled word processing (such as CAD or raster-based drawing programs) were relatively easy to build and have enjoyed some success. Lotus attempted in 1-2-3 and Symphony to embed other functions within the metaphor of a spreadsheet, but one might read the market as saying that 1-2-3 was about as far as the sheet would spread.
The Macintosh user interface represents the most significant effort to date to create a set of diverse applications that share a common set of operating conventions. Certainly the effort has gone much farther toward that goal than any which preceded it, but the limited success of the product in the marketplace may indicate that either the common user interface does not extend deep enough into the products to be of real benefit to the user, or that the user interface is still too complex. (On the other hand, it may indicate that people don't want a 23cm screen, or that Apple Computer should be named ``IBM'').
Today, desktop publishing systems are placing far more control and power in the user's hands than before. Now the user can enter text, then control its typography, layout, insertion of illustrations, and every other parameter controlling the final output. We see document filing and retrieval systems which have interfaces which emulate a physical library. Engineering programs are being built which graphically simulate physical systems and allow dynamic interaction with computer-simulated objects. We begin to hear the phrase, ``this job is 5% solving the problem and 95% user interface''.
It is currently almost an axiom of the industry that ``people won't buy computers in large quantities until we make them easier to use''. This is often used to justify the conclusion, ``we must invest far more work in user interfaces, and make our programs more interactive and responsive to the user''. I would like to explore whether this really follows.
Editor: John Walker