The nerdbook

Contemporary personal computers have two major flaws: the non-collocation (or dislocation) of haptical focus and optical focus; and the control of the pointing device by the hand, both discussed here. But there is another flaw of ordinary computers, even though they might have large screens, pagers and control panels. Just consider the basic mode of working: you focus on a piece of paper in front of you which you probably tear from a stack of files. Additionally, you might have a calender and a calculator in your vincinity. So you need one work bench in front of you, and a space -still visible- for auxiliary functions and a file browser.

That being said, a personal computing system must contain the following items, because the way of working should realize the original working paradigm:

There are already some approaches to this concept. MicroSoft's TabletPC already covers the first item, but this is not enough as this type of computers would not be appropriate for a real productive use. It's rather a notbook which can be used by a factory supervisor. It lacks multiple physical screens and an intelligent grabber. The following design is based on a foldable computer with multiple interactive, sensitive screens. It contains a A4 main screen and two A5 auxiliary screens! A grabber pen is provided with the system as well as a flat keyboard, which can be hidden in a panel if necessary. Of course, loudspeakers are integrated as well as a CDROM drive. Some wireless technology is used to logically connect all devices.

All necessary technology is already available, sensitive touch sreens, LCD displays at a size of A4 (210x297mm2), A5 (half of A4), Linux which would support multiple screens without add ons. For example, splitting a desktop in several screens might be very convenient as the following shows:

As it can be seen on this picture, one worksscreen can be configured to display a filemanager, here XFTree, which gives permanent accessability to all files, as it would be in an office; the main workscreen can contain a web page or a word processor; the helper worksscreen can contain a calculator, a calender, a CD player and a pager. The last one is very important as it would allow to toggle between different full screen applications on the main screen.

In the example before, a computer would be embedded into the screen chassis which is the ideal case. Consequently a personal computer will be considered as embedded system, with office and network application contained. It is also thinkable to separate the central procesigng unit (CPU) from the workscreens, which is depicted in the next figure. A calbe is used to carry the video signals and the power supply. Also would the CPU be in a A4 sized chassis which could carry the screens on top, for transport. Of course, any other CPU equipped with the appropriate videao board could be connected to the workscreen. Note that it would not change to mode of operation, ans as such it is destined to replace contemporary personal computers and workstations.

How would work be possible? For example, you grab with you pincette like pen a file in the file manager, drop it on the main panel and the application pops up. Nothing exciting yet. Then you start writing, or proof-reading an article you wrote. You erase some words by crossing them out, they disappear. A software issue. You insert the result of a calculation from the help screen. Somebody calls you, you grab the document and drop it back in your file manager, and so on. Does this sound like real productive work, where the computer is your slave, and not you as user you are the slave of computer i/o?

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Copyleft, Peter Wurmsdobler.
Created on July 1 1998,
Last modified on July 1 2007.