Did someone actually have to invent that?


A really charming article about John Karlin who was one of the first UX guys. He worked at Bell Labs back in the day and helped determine lots of little details about how telephones are designed. Simple silly things like that putting a dot (to “aim” at) visible through each finger hole of a dial phone improved accuracy and speed of dialing.

He determined, through testing, the best shape (square) and arrangement (a rectangular grid) and ordering (1-2-3 in the top row) of the buttons in touch tone telephones. Yes many other options were scientifically tested.

He also tested the impact of shortening the handset cables, and whether people could handle phone numbers that didn’t include letters to aid memory. 

Great article if you like to learn about inventors and invention!

Clever iPhone app vs. the Transistor

This interesting, and I think, correct article, makes the argument that the word ‘innovation’ is being watered down and even getting cheapened. It says, about “innovation”,

“Regrettably, we now use the term to describe almost anything. It can describe a smartphone app or a social media tool; or it can describe the transistor or the blueprint for a cellphone system. The differences are immense.” (from Innovation and the Bell Labs Miracle)

and leads to this:

“The conflation of these different kinds of innovations seems to be leading us toward a belief that small groups of profit-seeking entrepreneurs turning out innovative consumer products are as effective as our innovative forebears.

History does not support this belief. The teams at Bell Labs that invented the laser, transistor and solar cell were not seeking profits. They were seeking understanding. Yet in the process they created not only new products but entirely new — and lucrative — industries.” (from Innovation and the Bell Labs Miracle)

Excellent points and a useful distinction.