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Breaking the Windows Barrier

Kyoto – As 2009 commences, Microsoft is previewing its next-generation operating system, Windows 7, which is remarkable only in that it is almost the same as every previous version. Stagnation in computer design is not surprising, considering that familiarity is so comfortable.

But it can also stifle development. Military intelligence depends on ever-improving communication, so it is one area in which system design is constantly changing. Some of those innovations will eventually trickle into the mainstream, so a glimpse at current experiments can reveal what the future of ordinary computer interaction could look like, and what would be gained.

For the lay user, technology is encountered mostly as an interactive interface. People rarely consider that the tangible features assumed to be intrinsic to the “computer” were imitations of other objects, with keyboards inherited from typewriters and screens from television.

Inside the computer screen is a virtual 1950’s office, with paper documents, filing cabinets, and a garbage can. This page-window format is known as Window-Icon-Mouse-Pointer, or WIMP, which, due to monopoly forces, has been the universal paradigm since the 1980’s – ancient history in computer years.