Friday, May 3, 2013

Physical and functional definition

I'm a trainer, and my first customer is nobody else than my dad.

He is using computer for his work for more time he remembers, but last time I almost lost patience when he asked me how to open a file.

"Click on it", I said
"Click ? how do I click ?", he responds

First, I suspected he lost his head for a moment, but then I understood the big deal.
He has a physical definition of the mouse.
He knows that what is clicking on a mouse.
But for him a mouse was that :
And here is what he got :

From his point of view, a touchpad is not a mouse, even if he already used that to control the computer.
For him, he was never clicking with it, he was pushing a button. He was not clicking because this is not a mouse, this is a touchpad, and you can only click on a mouse... and you push buttons on a touchpad.

The problem was that people should understand that every definition for your OS is functional and not physical. A mouse is not the physical object. A mouse, for the OS, is everything that can move a cursor on the screen, click and right click.

On a single touch screen, your hand is the mouse. And this is not a metaphor, a mouse is whatever click and move a cursor.

For the OS, everything is a functional definition and any physical definition is irrelevant.

This is the kind of stuff that we don't know we know when we are working with software for a long time... But when we think about it, it is not always obvious for occasional users.

Question : Imagine your device run on Android. Your screen is not multi touch, but you can plug multiple mouse to simulate each touch. Does Android consider you are multi touch ?

Response : Yes, as far as android knows, there are different cursors that come and go, thus you are multi touch... even if physically, you are not.

Stupid observation for geeks, but this is a dig to cross for occasional computer users like my dad.

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