I Hate Computers: A motivational introduction to HCI


User-Centered Design: why people hate computers, and how to design useful and usable systems

We all know that people hate computers. Yet they continue to use them in spite of this antipathy. The problem is that while computers are highly useful (and necessary), they are not particularly usable. This is our fault. As computer professionals, we know how to make computers dance for us, but we do not know how to make these same computers dance for our end users. As a consequence, we design or buy software that does not fit end user’s needs, their ways of thinking, their ways of working.

User-centered design is a discipline concerned with solving this problem by introducing a myriad of practical methods that help developers design for people. One simple – and extremely cheap – method is to perform user testing of prototypes in the early stages of development. I will show several examples of how this can be done.

Even though I am a professor, this will not be an ivory tower talk. At the end of this presentation, you should be able to (and should want to) do your own quick and dirty user testing of your software visions.


  • I Hate Computers
  • Note: The above presentation also use the videos and software as listed below.

Topics Covered

  • Why people hate computers
  • Human computer interaction
  • Discount usability engineering
  • Case study: IBM Real Phone evaluation

Recommended Readings

  1. Gomoll, Kathleen & Nicol, Anne (1990)
    User Observation: Guidelines for Apple Developers, Apple Inc., January
  2. Gould, J. (1988)
    How to design usable systems. In Readings in Human Computer Interaction: Towards the Year 2000 (2nd Edition). Baecker, R., Grudin, J., Buxton, W., and Greenberg, S. (1995). Morgan-Kaufmann.

Additional Presentations


Videos are used in the presentation. The first few illustrates the difference between how computers are advertised vs. how people actually view them. The others concentrate on showing a study of the IBM Real Phone system.

  • Frantz, Matt (2001)
    I Hate Computers. Publishd by Independent Opposition. Mirrored from www.independentopposition.com
  • Sony Corporation.
    My Dad is not a Nerd. Advertisement produced by Sony Store. Date unknown. Mirrored from AdCritic.Com
  • Unknown.
    Disgruntled Employee. This video has been around for quite a while - its a classic. Unfortunately, I do not know who made it. It may be a spoof, but its a good one!
  • IBM
    Real Objects and Real Phone. IBM. Video extracted from Ben Sheiderman's Video series on Designing the User Interfaces
  • Greenberg, S. (1999)
    IBM's Real Phone: A Usability Study. produced by Saul Greenberg, with permission of the subject.


  • Realphone software zip file. Contents:
    • .exe installation program for Windows
    • Installation instructions for XP