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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At Last - Consideration for the end User, 23 Aug 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Leonardo's Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies (Paperback)
At last a book which takes cognisance of the end user. Schneiderman has crafted his book in the style of the master Leonardo - I can only hope that like Leonardo his ideas and proposals receive the same recognition and, more importantly, implementation. It is in addition one of the easiest books to read that has ever written on such a complex subject - However this in no way detracts from the overall content. A MUST for manufacturers, and software authors across the continuum
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful vision statement, 28 Aug 2007
By 
Bernard Smith (Somewhere, Europe) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The sub-title of this book is "human needs and the new computing technologies" and the author Ben Schneiderman, a well known figure in the human-computer interaction (HCI) field, tries to "raises computer users' expectations of what they should get from technology". The overall premise is clear; computing is no longer an issue of hardware designed for the specialist but one of a tool that should be designed to support human needs and help them do things. The author uses the image of Leonardo da Vinci as a way to stress the need to inspire new and more imaginative uses of computers and "laptops".
I am not sure how to review this book. I am conscious of the fact that from many, many readers this book will open their eyes to a new world where the hardware will disappear and what will emerge is a new generation of user-friendly or "universally usable" applications in education, medicine, commerce, and social networking. It is vitally important that this message is promoted and listened too by those working in the computer industry. Schneiderman is absolutely right to promote a transformation that must enable the participation by young and old, novice and experts, able and disabled. The book is well written, easy to read, and I like the Skeptic's Corner at the end of each chapter that challenges what is written. Purely in the context of what is written I would have liked to have seen a much more aggressive analysis of the past failures of the HCI community to influence computer develops (I am not convinced that the HCI community has the right to, or is equipped to, give us a lesson on the way society should high-jack a technology for its own purposes: their track record is abysmal). Also I had the impression that the author was speaking from a kind of ivory tower, and that the proposals had a flavour of doing good for the world's less fortunate individuals. I may have misinterpreted things, but I would have liked a much stronger statement concerning the need to liberate the creative potential of everyone and not just those that know how to use a computer. And I would have liked to see a more compelling argument as to why creative people should see the computer as an artistic medium. More generally I would even question the link created between Leonardo and computing; it makes a nice title but I'm not convinced a modern Leonardo would be working in this field (I certainly can't see him working for Microsoft or Apple).
Most of the concepts and visions expressed in the book are just extensions of existing ideas and emerging practices. This is not really a criticism but more a statement of the objective of the book. As such it is an introduction, tends sometimes to be over superficial, and oversells the role of the computer (and technology) in society. It is a vision statement, not a roadmap.
Other weaknesses in the book include an overly Anglo-US perspective, a rather superficial treatment of the issues surrounding assisted and independent living for the aged (where computing technology could make an incredible contribution in the coming years), and a too narrow focus on the definition of a computer as an IT tool (I would have liked to see more on the future role of robotics and embedded cognition).
I may have been overly critical of the book, but it has the merit to exist. The author's aims are laudable and I have no idea how to write the perfect book on the subject. His call for a radical change in the way industry and people build, use and "see" computers is well intentioned, and, in my opinion, an absolute necessity if we are to empower everyone (and not just a select few). Lets hope this book helps do that, and also helps inspire other to write even better books on the topic.
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Leonardo's Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies
Leonardo's Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies by Ben Shneiderman (Paperback - 2 Sep 2003)
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