Notes on the (relatively unknown) History of Pen-based Computing
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- Source: Annotated Bibliography in Touch/Pen Computing and Handwriting Recognition by Jean Renard Ward".
This is a short outline of a presentation on the history of
"pen computing" I gave for the Pen Computing group of the
Boston Computer Society, March 11, 1992. Unfortunately, I did not keep the full set of slides, which had pictures of the products and systems.
However, Dan Bricklin (CTO at Slate Corporation at the time) has posted a video of the same presentation on youtube, which does show all the pictures and slides:
Topic threads for tonight ...
- Pen Computing is not new: "A lot of it has happened before"
(... with selected examples, mostly from commercial development)
- Some specific shortcomings of the current state of the Pen-Computing art
(... they are not what you might think)
- What this implies ... or, "What should we do?"
Why this "historical view" might be of interest to this audience:
- Historical developments are relatively unknown, and quite voluminous.
- Present a broad range of case-study examples.
- Early examples were done by workers motivated by other interests, with a different perspective ...
- man-machine-interfaces (sic),
- human functionality and usability,
- cognitive concerns
- a study problem for pattern recognition
... not in modern "GUI" development.
- Current problems:
- There are neglected / overlooked issues,
falling under the rubric of human factors,
that affect and may threaten the usability
and viability of pen-based systems.
Especially: "Electronic Ink" (hardware and software)
- Topics not addressed tonight:
- No product demonstrations ...
- No applications demonstrations ...
- Other presentations coming up:
- Slate is presenting to BCS general meeting, May 21.
- Society for Information Display (S.I.D.) is meeting in Boston in May.
Videotape demo of certain applications.
- There is a repeated theme in commercial developments, namely the
"Lief Ericsson in 1992" scenario ---
- "I/we discovered/invented pen computing, pen computers, pen-based systems."
"The Archeology of Pen-based computing"
- 1914 Hyman Eli Goldberg, U.S. Patent 1,117,184,
... on-line (not OCR) recognition of hand-written
numerals to control a machine in real-time.
- 1938 George Hansel, U.S. Patent 2,143,875,
machine recognition of handwriting.
- G.G. Neil Wright, "The Writing of Arabic Numerals"
"The Ancient History of Pen-based computing"
- 1956 RAND tablet
... invention of the digitizing tablet, for
a handwriting recognition project.
(Actualy the Stylator came first!)
- 1957 T.L. Dimond, "Reading Handwritten Characters", EJCC
Claimed 97% recognition rate, and a better input device
for humans than a keyboard
- 1962 Masterson and Hirsch, IRE Transactions on Human
Factors and Electronics
99.79% correct recognition.
- 1962 J.C.R. Licklider, "On-line Man-computer Communication", SJCC
- 1961/3 Sitari, Harmon, Frishkopf, et al
cursive script recognition at Bell Labs
- 1966 Groner et al, "GRAIL System", RAND Corporation
Text/character recognition, gesture commands,
"The Early Commercial History of Pen-based computing"
- 1973 Applicon Corporation / Ledeen recognizer
Gesture-based command input, with
hot-points, in a widely-praised
GUI for a commercial CAD system
- 1974 SRI / Xebec Systems Incorporated
Text input to computer with a pen
- 1976 S-I Hanaki, NEC handwriting kana/romanji
billing machine product
- 1981 Several commercial vendors, small units, some portable
MicroPad ImageData Telepad
(Application areas: data-capture, data-entry)
"The Modern History of Pen-based computing"
1983 PC-based or -oriented commercial products
PenPad CIC Handwriter NestorWriter
Included "front-end" interfaces to word-processing
systems, CAD/Paint systems, spread-sheet input
(Note: these companies are still around)
Special note: even perfect recognition does not solve the problem!
Gould et al, "Composing Letters with a Simulated
Listening Typewriter", CACM April 1983.
1985 "Experimental" systems
AEG (Germany) Word-processing
1986 Linus Technologies
Application areas: walking data capture (nurses),
financing from Baxter Medical
1986/7 MAC-based products:
Personal Writer / Anatex
"Current Events of Pen-based computing"
Application area: remote data capture (surveys,
1990/91/92 Too many to mention ...
"Pen OS" - PenPoint, Windows for Pens
"Pocket" - Poqet
, Sharpe Wizard
"Tablets" - Wang/Momenta/Grid/Eden Group/SuperScript/ScriptWriter/ ...
NOTE: All of these application areas involve "electronic ink", data
that is fundamentally in written form (sketches
by insurance adjusters, for example), that
does not need to be recognized as text.
- Highly-mobile data capture
- Note taking / capture
- Document capture and display
- "Imaging systems"
There will be a short video of some representative applications and software
(So there is some commercial content after all - Dang!)
Specific shortcomings of the current art:
- Electronic ink: State of the Art -- Special
Existing, alternative technology for data
capture, note capture, and documents
is paper and pen, or paper and pencil,
... not any current computer technology.
Paper-based systems are highly evolved
--> equivalent to well designed.
"Ink" APIs and functions are not highly evolved:
Current hardware designs for electronic
ink are NOT adequate, due partly
to ignorance of physical effects of
human use on part of designers.
- Displays (LCD): State of the Art
LCD parallax / shadowing
Slow ("fuzzy motion"), especially when cold
- Greyscale mapping
- Digitizers: State of the Art
- Bad electronic ink vs. real ink
Comparison: Teletype keyboard vs.
typewriter keyboard action
- Tablet electronic effects: (especially at low power!)
Tablets produce very distorted images ...
"it's not my signature"
"it doesn't go where I point/draw"
- Fixed line distortions
- Velocity errors
- Angle of stylus
- Poor tracking with height
- Tablet mechanical effects:
- Tip force
- Surface hardness
- Stylus design:
- corded / handed
- surface texture
- weight and handling
There will be a short video showing digitizers
So ... What does this history mean ... to us?
What applications have been shown to be inappropriate?
Why should we think there is a market?
There is a long historical perspective
Examples for human-factors, application,
market, U/I, and human-machine design study
Old (obvious?) applications were not successful.
New applications are highly mobile, in unfamiliar
areas, and characterized by functionality
such as electronic ink or mobile data access, not character
Daytimer (R) Pen Scheduler
Hardware for electronic ink requires a
design much more to ergonomic and human
factors goals than has been the case.