Chapter 10: Processes of Perception and Analysis

Section 12: Human Thinking

Computer interfaces

The earliest computer interfaces were essentially just numerical. By the 1960s text-based interfaces were common, and in the decade following the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984 graphical interfaces based on menus and dialogs came to largely dominate consumer software. Such interfaces work well if what one wants is basically to take a single object and apply operations to it. And they can be extended somewhat by using visual block diagrams or flowcharts. But whenever there is neither just a single active data element nor an obvious sequence of independent execution steps—as for many of the programs in this book—my experience has always been that the only viable choice of interface is a computer language like Mathematica, based essentially on one-dimensional sequences of word-like constructs. The rule diagrams in this book represent a possible new method for specifying some simpler programs, but it remains to be seen whether such diagrams can readily both be created incrementally by humans and interpreted by computer.

From Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science [citation]