Computer technology provides us with constant opportunities to try new things, and with each new device we get a peek at what the future has in store. But the history of that technology is just as important as the future. The Interface Experience: Forty Years of Personal Computing tells the story of that past through tactile and interactive displays that will stimulate new questions about how we interact with and use computers.
The last forty years of computing history have been defined by the ascendance of personal computers. This era saw the power of computation finally brought out of laboratories and corporate technology centers and into the purview of the individual user. Over these four decades, we have seen a blur of technological advances in both hardware and software, as computers have gotten smaller, faster, more powerful, and more complex in their capabilities. In fact, so much has happened so quickly and has been so dramatic in its effect on everyday life that we often forget to think about just how we have interacted with these machines over time, and how those interactions have come to define those experiences. To counter this loss of perspective, The Interface Experience presents some of the most ubiquitous objects in the history of personal computing. The exhibition offers visitors a unique opportunity to gain a better understanding of the history of the design and material experience of computers, and it aims to stimulate personal questions about how interaction with these devices has influenced each of our lives.
What makes The Interface Experience unique is the level of tangible interaction that visitors will have with the exhibition objects. A computer is more than merely an assemblage of plastic, metal, and glass, and to understand its importance, the visitor must experience the interface between the user, hardware, and software of that device. To this end, the five computing devices central to the exhibition—the Commodore 64 (1982), Macintosh Plus (1986), PalmPilot Professional (1997), iPad 2 (2010), and Microsoft Kinect (2010)—are fully functional and are running custom-developed software. Through this software, visitors are able to experience the unique characteristics of each device and consider its place in history. The exhibition also includes innovative staging of the objects within the space and a robust web platform full of information on the objects on display. The Interface Experience promises to be simultaneously evocative, interactive, and informative for anyone who has ever used a computer.