Re: Xerox PARC Magic Lenses -- Parallel? Equivalent? Value Lessons?

From: ncarroll (
Date: Sat Oct 07 2000 - 20:20:41 PDT

Doug Engelbart - Bootstrap Institute wrote:
> I had heard a week or so ago about a "Lense" technique developed at Xerox PARC
> which led me to veer away from calling our early OHS prototype a "Hyper Lens."
> (I'm moving now to calling it a Hyper Scope, or TScope, ..).

> I'd be interested in assessments by some of you with different
> knowledge/experience backgrounds than I have, as to how their Lense approach
> can educate us, or compete -- or possibly they've gotten there first?

I read the papers, stared at the views. My short opinion would be
that magic lenses are not all that usable for the average user--
too complicated--and not particularly marketable, except perhaps
to specialty markets like CAD.

I suspect someone at PARC was reading Edward Tufte with an excess
of enthusiasm.


I suffered doubts about the viability of lens metaphors in 2000,
triggered by this phrase from PARC's abstract: "... they employ an
attractive metaphor based on physical lenses ..."

However, modern first world people have little experience with lenses.
Magnifying lenses have largely disappeared with better bifocal glasses;
television is not seen as a lens, nor are computer "windows"; and
astronomy has declined in popularity. The power of the lens metaphor
may have reached its height in the Victorian era, when people would
actually carry empty picture frames (with handles mounted on them)
to frame different views of nature. And Mt. Palomar is not the star
it used to be.

That is not an exercise in scholarship; I'm simply opining that
the metaphor of the lens has probably been declining for a long

"Scope" is still with us; in fact in the U.S. it is a current and
viable verb, as in "to scope [something]."



Nicholas Carroll Email: Alternate: ______________________________________________________

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