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From: mich...@rosebud.llnl.gov (Mike Slominski)
Newsgroups: comp.sys.sgi
Subject: Does sgi have a human factors group?
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Date: 15 Jun 92 20:24:42 GMT
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Does sgi have a human factors group?  I expect that the answer is yes.
If so, I'd like to know just how committed sgi is in this area.  Is
the group respected within the company?  Is it a big group?  Do they
have input in the early stages of the design cycle?  Does the group do
any basic research?  

I'm asking because our group is currently shopping for workstations
and, because of past experience, we are looking for a company that is
committed to ease-of-use.  For obvious reasons, I'd rather hear from
human factors people or engineers.  A statement such as, "Oh boy, are
we committed!" from a sale person, will be taken for what it's worth.

What I've seen so far has left me with a favorable impression, but I
want to know what my aspirin consumption will be.  And I want to know
if it will get better or worse with time.

-m
-- 
Michael Slominski        | Memory is the power to gather roses in
mich...@rosebud.llnl.gov | winter.
(510) 423-6754           |                     -unknown

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From: j...@patton.wpd.sgi.com (Jim Barton)
Newsgroups: comp.sys.sgi
Subject: Re: Does sgi have a human factors group?
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Date: 16 Jun 92 00:58:20 GMT
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Indeed, SGI has a human factors group. In fact, a very quantitative one at
that. But we don't limit our sensivity to usability issues to that group
of people - everyone gets in the act (as they should!)

Usability starts with the basic machine itself. Consider the Indigo for awhile,
the simple plastics, the easy to install/deinstall boards, the ultra-cool
removable drive sleds and even the color (thanks, Ed). A machine designed
from the ground up to be user serviceable and installable in 15 minutes or
less.

Take one step up and consider the basic ugliness of getting a UNIX machine
up and running. Initialization is well handled by parameterized shell scripts,
with a simple command line interface (chkconfig(1)) for setting options.
Customers have told us that an SGI workstation is the easiest to get up and
running on the net.

Also included with an IRIS are the System Manager and Workspace. System
manager provides a simple graphical interface to administration of the
system, while workspace provides a graphical filesystem manager that 
continues to lead the industry.

At the graphical user interface level, we have ongoing (and usually quite
lively) "discussions" about the appropriateness of various sorts of user 
interface styles. Consider the default color schemes, the toolchest, all of
the little toys that come in /usr/sbin.

Currently, we are trying to understand how to move forward into an era
of application interoperability in the face of highly variable data types
(e.g., text, image, video, audio) while maintaining real-time performance
(ICCCM looks a tad bit silly in the face of all this). The IRIS Explorer
(bundled on every system) is a good example of visual programming. IRIS
Showcase, a multimedia presentation tool including hyperlinks, comes bundled
as well (and puts HyperCard to shame).

Software standards are an important part of usability, since they allow for
application, programmer and user portability between systems. One of our
biggest challenges is to continue to make our systems easier to use in the
face of standards designed to make life easier for everyone BUT the end
user. This tradeoff of providing portability AND usability, may be the
supreme test of a workstation vendor over the long term.

Usability is very important to us, and in fact we are probably our own
worst critics in this area. We know about some of the ugly corners that
people can bump into, the less-then-ideal interfaces, the unfortunate bugs.
But at least we know about them, acknowledge them, and continue to 
make things better and better.

I have only scratched the surface of our efforts here. I'm sure that if
I missed a critical piece someone else will fill it in. Asking if SGI
focuses on human factors is the wrong question - the correct question is:

"Why don't other workstation manufacturers pay as much attention to 
 usability as SGI?"

-- Jim Barton
   Silicon Graphics Computer Systems
   j...@sgi.com

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