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Leonardo's Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies (MIT Press)

3.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262692991
ISBN-10: 0262692996
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Editorial Reviews

Review

[A] very useful book...

(First Monday Reviews)

[I]t's easy...to get caught up in the author's techno-Utopian vision of a world hotwired to serve its populace.

(ComputerUser.com)

...Schneiderman is blessed with an engaging writing style and the ability to make this material interesting and lively.

(Modbee.com)

This book is an inspiration, a must read.

(International Journal of Human Computer Interaction)

This book will change the way you think about web design.

(Web Reference)

This is an eloquently written and visionary book.

(The Rational Edge)

Who should read Leonardo's Laptop? Everyone who cares about mankind, technology, and the future.

(SAP Design Guild)

My favourite sentence in this book is 'easy to say, but tough to do.' Ben Shneiderman addresses many of the key issues in creating powerful tools that empower and liberate users. By comparison with a bygone age, and a true polymath (Leonardo), Ben puts his finger on how specialised and compartmentalised our thinking has become. I can't help feeling that if everyone were to read this book we would have a lot less technology and interface induced grief. Definitely one for the pocket and desk and not the bookshelf.

(Peter Cochrane, Co-Founder, ConceptLabs California)

A lot of people talk about a new wave of innovation driven by human need, rather than by technology, but Ben Shneiderman is actually doing the innovating. This timely book is about the new ways technology will help us mobilise human agency, not replace it.

(John Thackara, First Perceptron, Doors of Perception)

About the Author

Ben Shneiderman is Professor of Computer Science and Founding Director (1983--2000) of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland, College Park.
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Product Details

  • Series: MIT Press
  • Paperback: 281 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (August 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262692996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262692991
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,494,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nadyne Richmond VINE VOICE on June 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Schneiderman's "Leonardo's Laptop" is singularly disappointing. Promising to raise our expectation of what we should get from technology, he instead uses a forced extended metaphor in the form of Leonardo da Vinci. What would Leonardo do?, we are repeatedly asked. Schneiderman attempts to answer the question. Sadly, his answers are neither new nor groundbreaking. I cannot believe that Leonardo would simply recount solutions that are already available and attempt to make such solutions sound visionary and forward-thinking.

The chapters in the book discuss the issues with usability today, activites and relationships, and attempt to discuss future directions in several fields: government, healthcare, business, and education. In these chapters, Schneiderman uses feel-good buzzwords like 'empowering' and 'enabling', but never moves beyond the feel-good buzzwords to suggest real solutions. In most cases, he suggests solutions that are already implemented; in others, he simply waves his hands at the problem and says that there has to be a solution.

Each chapter concludes with a skeptic's corner. This section could easily be re-labelled the strawman's corner. In that section, he constructs arguments that skeptics might use, but he must assume that skeptics are uniformly moronic. The so-called skeptical arguments are drawn with exceptionally rough strokes, which he dispenses of with little regard to very real concerns that can and should be discussed.

I had high hopes for this book. I wanted something that pushed the boundaries. I wanted something visionary. Instead, I got a repetitive book that somehow didn't say anything. I can only hope that future works give us something better than this.
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Format: Hardcover
Ben Shneiderman's "Leonardo's Laptop" should be as inspirational to readers in the 21st century as Leonardo daVinci was in the l5th and l6th. Renaissance man possessed "virtu"-the spirit of the times reflected by freedom to choose, invent and create. Shneiderman exemplifies this same attribute today, probably termed "existential". One does not remain static but, freely innovative with all tools available. While Leonardo pioneered the arts and sciences which eventually enlightened society, Shneiderman suggests what the user can do with the computer as an application of modern day social science .
This book offers a model, the same process of Leonardo's thought - COLLECT, RELATE, CREATE, DONATE. (CRCD) Clearly, this process has unlimited applications and Shneiderman highlights education, commerce, medicine and of course government, itself, sa varied spectrum of political ramifications. Most computer users master the technical side. Shneiderman reminds us that if we just stop for a moment, in the imaginative Renaissance spirit of "virtue" or his modern model CRCD, this technical tool can benefit various aspects of social living. Leonardo did not have this opportunity yet,because he well understood the human condition, we still positively enjoy his legacy. Shneiderman's model serves this same inspiration in today's world. Since the computer is here to stay, let's use it well!
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Format: Hardcover
It is a sad fact that with the exception of deep academic and professional texts aimed at corporate programmers and computer science researchers, most books on computing have frighteningly short useful lifetimes. All too many of them are little more than glorified how-to guides in the use of specific versions of rapidly evolving commercial packages and ever changing industry standards. A few attempt to cover application areas in more generality, but very few indeed strike at the core of the really big picture while offering substantial value to both computing experts and End Users alike.
Ben Shneiderman's tour-de-force, Leonardo's Laptop, is just such a rare gem. It accomplishes the hat trick of meeting the needs of readers in academia, industry, and the general public by going beyond talk of the "in technologies" of the moment to conceptualizing a New Computing organized around the principle of putting human needs first.
It reminds us that while we may have become accustomed to buggy and brittle software, such bad designs - which cost both lives and dollars - impoverish the human spirit and need not be tolerated. By drawing on our scientific and artistic sides we can restore the balance to make technology use an ennobling experience.
Although the text is addressed to everyday computer users and decision makers whose purchasing patterns ultimately determine what the IT sector will produce, it offers a rich set of endnotes that will guide technically oriented readers to the resources they need to implement its vision. Moreover, researchers and business people will find Leonardo's Laptop to be an invaluable source of ideas for grant writing and business plan development.
This book is a must have that will lead to new insights with each reading.
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By Nathan on September 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
Leonardo's Laptop Response:

I really dislike this book. At first, I was looking forward to reading it. I am very interested in technology's future, human computer interface design, and enabling better software through simplicity. The combination of technology and artistry suggested by the title led me to believe that it would be an insightful volume pointing the way to a better computing. Instead, this diatribe leads me only left with a feeling that the author is so full of himself as to be blind to the world around him.

This book does address real issues. As computing moves from the back server closet into the home, real changes have to be made. Software today is complicated, and is frequently frustrating to use and learn.

However, this author acts as if the computing world is ignorant of the cost of complexity. His book falls short of actual ways to achieve these goals, has no recognition of the technological, economical, or social challenges involved, and totally fails to recognize the work of the past pioneers in achieving these goals. He views computing solely from a consumer point of view, ignoring the vast gains in efficiency and choice made possible through the vast computing infrastructure supporting modern day life.

As Schneiderman puts it, "old" computing is concerned with technology. These researchers and practitioners are concerned with increasing speed, decreasing cost, and improving reliability. In contrast, he views "new" computing as a focus on improving people's experience with technology.

This is a perfect example of the author's lack of technical competence.
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