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The Adventure of Getting to Know a Computer Disclosure Number: IPCOM000131551D
Original Publication Date: 1982-Nov-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Nov-11
Document File: 19 page(s) / 68K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

John M. Carroll: AUTHOR [+3]


IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center

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This record contains textual material that is copyright ©; 1982 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact the IEEE Computer Society (714-821-8380) for copies of the complete work that was the source of this textual material and for all use beyond that as a record from the SPI Database.

The Adventure of Getting to Know a Computer

John M. Carroll IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center

Making text editors more like computer games may seem ridiculous on the surface, but these "games" use basic motivational techniques -- something designers of application systems have overlooked.

It is suppertime, and most everyone in the computing center has already gone home. But framed against one bright gray wall sits a lone explorer. In his mind, he is deep underneath the surface of the earth in a dark and dangerous cave -- but he is entering into a world of color, imagination, action, and general amazement. He is playing Adventure. On the screen is a cryptic message: "The bird was unafraid when you entered, but as you approach, it becomes disturbed and you cannot catch it. " He stares intently, his thoughts are almost tangible, leaping between his head and the screen. He is going over every variation of every possibly relevant parameter of the situation, and he will do this over and over again until he has wrung out at least 470 points. It's just a game.

The very next morning, someone else is sitting in the same chair, directly in front of the same console, staring into the very same tube. Despite the background bustle, this person also sits quietly mesmerized by the cryptic message on the screen: "Task not applicable at this time." Like her predecessor, this person is silently examining her knowledge and her hypotheses about the system: "What is a task? " " Does 'not applicable' meart I don't need to do this or that I have to do it, but not this way? " " If I sit here and wait for some time to pass, will it work then?"

But unlike her predecessor, this person is not navigating a cave far below the surface of the earth -- she is trapped between two menus in a text editing facility. Also unlike her Adventure counterpart, she will probably not win all 470 points, at least not for a long time, because she can resolve the task-not-applicable problem more quickly than the other can resolve the bird problem -- she simply decides that "Task not applicable at this time" means nothing very much at all and goes on. She gets to the next menu, or the prior menu, or she just turns the machine off and starts fresh -- the lessons, whatever they might have been in the prior session segment, are sacrificed. The goal, after all, is to learn how to get a letter typed out -- this is no game!

Here we have two people, a player of Adventure, a wellknown and popular computer game, and a user who is trying to learn an application system...