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The old computing is about what computers can do;
The new computing is about what people can do.

The user experience with information and computing technology could be dramatically improved. Successful technologies are those that are truly useful and therefore in harmony with users' needs. They must support relationships and activities that enrich the users' experiences.

Information and communication technologies are most appreciated when users experience a sense of security, mastery, and accomplishment. These technologies enable users to relax, enjoy and explore.

The New Computing movement stems from the book "Leonardo's Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies" by Ben Shneiderman (MIT Press, summer 2002). The Table of Contents and the draft of the Chapter 1 summarize the arguments.

The New Computing is an initiative of Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland, where the related research project, "Ending User Frustration" is supported under the National Science Foundation grant on "Internet Impact on Society." The project director is Sociology Professor John Robinson and their webuse website contains further information.

Our 3-year research effort to study user frustration resulted in a set of seven papers.

Our colleague Prof. Kent Norman has carried out a large online survey of computer rage with compelling stories of user anger, and his own special style of videos showing safe (amusing + disturbing) destruction of computer technologies.

What is the new computing?

Usable: Users experience with information and computing technology could be dramatically better. It’s time to get angry about the quality of our computing environments: too many crashes, too many confusing designs, too many frustrations. We need to pressure software, hardware, and network developers to work together to develop more reliable and comprehensible products.

Universal: The New Computing is also about empowerment for everyone. Effective designs should be usable by every one: young and old, novice and expert, well and poorly educated, owners of new and older computers, speakers of English and other languages. Universal designs can improve the quality for all users.

Useful: The New Computing is about enabling users to concentrate on their personal needs and support their relationships with others. Users appreciate information and communication technologies most when they experience a sense of safety, mastery, and accomplishment. The New Computing technologies will enable users to accomplish their tasks and to relax, enjoy, and explore.

How can you help promote the new computing?


  • teach yourself more about the products you use

  • encourage neighbors & colleagues to utilize costumer services 
  • help friends and family to get proper training
  • participate in online communities to get and give advice
  • demand appropriate assistance from help desks
  • install Bugtoaster (www.bugtoaster.com) to report crashes
  • report your frustrations to developers and on this web site

  • send comments to

         - installation and configuration bewilderment          - software/hardware/network designers
         - dialing and connection failures          - corporations
         - network delays and long response times          - journalists
         - instruction and help incomprehensibility          - media reports
         - menu, message and dialog box confusion          - US Congress and Executive Agencies
         - data and program incompatibilities
         - virus attacks and unpredictable behavior
         - bugs and crashes

  Web site designer, producer, manager

  Teacher, trainer, professor


  • develop improved theories and models for human-computer interaction
  • refine and evaluate design alternatives
  • create advanced tools and interfaces
  • advocate for increased research support

Contact Ben Shneiderman for further information. 


Website maintained by Irina Ceaparu. Last updated December 20, 2002.

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