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Input Devices Handhelds Portables

'Gorilla Arm' Will Keep Touch Screens From Taking Over 610

Hugh Pickens writes "With Windows 8, Microsoft has made a billion-dollar gamble that personal computing is taking a new direction and that new direction is touch, says David Pogue. It's efficient on a touchscreen tablet. But Microsoft expects us to run Windows 8 on our tens of millions of everyday PCs. Although touch has been incredibly successful on our phones, tablets, airport kiosks and cash machines, Pogue says touch will never take over on PCs. The reason? Gorilla Arms. There are three big differences between tablet screens and a PC's screen: angle, distance and time interval. The problem is 'the tingling ache that [comes] from extending my right arm to manipulate that screen for hours, an affliction that has earned the nickname of gorilla arm.' Some experts say gorilla arm is what killed touch computing during its first wave in the early 1980s but Microsoft is betting that Windows 8 will be so attractive that we won't mind touching our PC screens, at least until the PC concept fades away entirely. 'My belief is that touch screens make sense on mobile computers but not on stationary ones,' concludes Pogue. 'Microsoft is making a gigantic bet that I'm wrong.'"
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'Gorilla Arm' Will Keep Touch Screens From Taking Over

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  • Pain (Score:5, Informative)

    by ravenswood1000 ( 543817 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @09:25AM (#42494811)
    It hurts like hell to use a touch screen for hours.
  • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @09:34AM (#42494853) Journal
    I use my iPad regularly for work, for extended periods of time sometimes. As an extremely portable platform, it isn't all that bad for typing larger amounts of text, though it is not ideal. I've tried using it as a mini laptop by standing it upright and using a Bluetooth keyboard. That's the setup that Microsoft envision, apparently. And you know what? Turns out the thing that I've been missing most on my iPad when using it standalone for typing/drawing isn't a keyboard. It's a mouse, or at least a trackpad. A mouse offers precision and speed; no click and hold necessary since a mouse has buttons. A touchscreen is more useful on other cases perhaps, but or a lot of common tasks it can't beat a mouse.
  • by djl4570 ( 801529 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @09:45AM (#42494919) Journal
    The biggest problem I have with my Galaxy Tab is sites that rely on mouse over messages and mouse over drop down menus. Since there is no mouse cursor, I can't activate the message or drop down. is a good example of this. You can navigate to "scores" easily but getting to "standings" is problematic. All of the sites that rely on a mouse cursor or Flash can be rebuilt to support tablets but I'm not sure this is an improvement.
    The lack of mouse over messages is a problem with icons as well. If I don't know what an ambiguous icon does, the only way to find out is to poke the icon or wade through documentation.
  • Simple solution... (Score:4, Informative)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Sunday January 06, 2013 @09:55AM (#42494967) Journal

    Touch screens and light pens suck on a vertical surface. Mount the display on about a 30 degree slope, like a sheet of paper on a drafting table, and the gorilla arm problem goes away.

    I like my iPad, and the iPad mini has its place, but I really want to see iOS devices that are far larger, like standard B, C, and D sheets.


  • by Joshua Fan ( 1733100 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @10:00AM (#42494999) Homepage
    Stop propagating the myth Steve Jobs started that few people bother to test first hand.

    Here's some articles from people who actually USED Windows 8:

    Surprisingly, touchscreen laptops don't suck []

    Touchscreens and the Myth of Windows 8 ‘Gorilla Arm’ []
  • Re:Pain (Score:2, Informative)

    by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @10:20AM (#42495115) Journal

    I actually like the ribbon. Basically all it is, is a pictorial, long text menu.

    For the length and the real estate it occupies on the screen, the ribbon is very inefficient. The common things I use in an Office package are:


    In earlier versions of Office, all these were right there on the top of the editor. Very convenient. I could add, delete or re-rrange the locations of these things as well. Very efficient and programmable.

    Now with the Ribbon thingy, there are 3 or 4 separate Ribbons for the 6 commonly used features (and I'm not a Power user, besides). The logical thing would've been to make the Ribbon an option. But MS is an abuse company, dealing with software. They are not reasonable or placative. They are nutcases and nihilists.

    Which is why they are FORCING this Metro crap on unwilling users. Unlike Office, Windows is more widely used. So this will cause much more heartburn, and the resulting karma will drive the company towards its eventual demise.

  • by belgianguy ( 1954708 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @10:24AM (#42495143)
    Fatigue: it costs more energy to move your whole arm and body to touch a screen than it takes to move a mouse pointer. That's what the article covers.
    Obfuscation: Where the mouse pointer does cover 'some' pixels on the screen, a finger, and its attached hand and arm will obfuscate a much larger part of the view, which requires the user to remember what was under his finger before touching it. If this happens too often or a UI changes rapidly (eg a web site), this could lead to frustrations. Especially with subjects like the elderly.
    Precision: You lose precision, even with a perfectly healthy human being, a fingerprint has a bigger surface than a pixel-perfect pointer, therefor your UI needs to be a lot more spacious to allow for users to "aim" correctly and allow for some correctional margin. If the UI design did not take this into account, this too can lead to frustration (mis-touching).

    Windows 8 is a half-assed execution of some good ideas, the signature Microsoft symptom since Ballmer took over.
  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @10:49AM (#42495303) Homepage Journal

    Nope. Sorry, but you're wrong. I'm fairly fit, if less fit than I was 20 or 30 years ago. I routinely perform "strenuous" labor. And, I've done so all my life. Arms simply aren't designed, or meant to be held out in an extended position for long periods of time. If I exert myself, I can lift a fifty pound sack of feed, and hold it out at arm's length. It isn't going to stay there very long, because the entire body is entirely off balance, and the arms are straining to hold it there.

    Almost 40 years ago, a high school shop teacher challenged some of the jocks to hold a broom out at arm's length, and extended in a horizontal position. They held it there for only short periods of time, like 15 to 45 seconds. Big, strong boys, who were the epitomy of health. Most of the time, the wrist gave out first, sometimes it was the elbow.

    I've tried this at work. Half a dozen guys standing around, nice examples of healthy human specimens, I challenge them to hold a broom out. Carpenters generally do better than others, but even though they have developed quite strong wrist muscles, I've never seen anyone hold that broom out, level and steady, for more than 90 seconds.

    We simply aren't built to hold our arms out horizontally for long periods of time. That is why metro-type GUI's will never replace more traditional desktop environments. That is why the Linux world has forked Gnome2, and many of us simply abandoned Gnome3.

  • Because of my neck (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @11:50AM (#42495729)

    We have the monitor sitting where it does because it is easy and non-stressful to look at. You keep your neck in a neutral position and can see what you are doing. Your mouse and keyboard are then on the desk for the same reason with regards to your hands. If I move the monitor down to the desk, I'll suffer from neck and back pain in a hurry, because I'll be working hunched over.

    Also, if you make your input and output device the same device, then you have the problem that your hands are blocking a large part of your output device. My keyboard is pretty large and my hands block off most of it from view when I type. Why would I want to do that with a display?

    You could have two displays, but then the question is again why. Keyboards are mice offer excellent tactile feedback because they are physical devices. I can touch type at 80wpm+ on a physical keyboard, literally with my eyes closed. I can't come anywhere near that on a touchscreen.

    Touchscreens are useful only in some situations, mainly where you have a limited amount of space and as such your display and input devices need to be the same. There is just no reason to want them on the desktop. They are more expensive, and less usable, than what we already have.

    I think people forget that touchscreens are NOT new. They've been around for a long time, yet there's been no interest in bringing them to desktop computing on a large scale. There are plenty of reasons for it, ergonomics top among them.

  • Re:Pain (Score:5, Informative)

    by Missing.Matter ( 1845576 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @12:01PM (#42495799)

    Ribbon takes a layout which can fit a wide range of tools, and shrinks the total usable space, in the interest of - for some mysterious reason - drawing attention to the most common set of features which everyone uses, despite the fact that everyone already used them.

    No, the purpose of the ribbon is to bring more functionality to within 2 clicks. The number of features that are up front and visible to the user is drastically increased from Office 2003. I've had people tell me they like the new features in Word 2007 like bibliographies, various layout tools, footnotes, captions, etc. Those features have been in Word for a long time, but buried in menus. The quality of documents I've seen over the years has increased as a result.

    It does this at the cost of being able to keep multiple features on screen at once - with Ribbon I can't have styling and fonts, drawing, and reviewing all on screen at the same time whereas in Office 2003 I could and it worked perfectly well.

    You can do this in the ribbon as well. Either pin your favorite functions to the quick launch menu or make your own custom ribbon.

    How does data showing the rates of use for various features winds up with the conclusion that you should less commonly used features even harder to access I will never know.

    What features exactly are harder to access?

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @12:27PM (#42495999)

    Sorry for the double reply, but I'm getting really annoyed by people who make the distinction between "apps" and "programs". There's no difference at all. The word "app" is a shortening of "application", i.e. what Mac OS calls a program, or executable. Apps are not inherently small, or less fully featured things than programs, it just happened that the first platform to call them "apps" all the time lent itself to small programs, not giant ones.

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:19PM (#42497849)

    You will find that the right side of the keyboard contains a wide variety of layouts [], not only in different regions of the world but also within a single country. Referring to key by its location is pretty risky, whereas referring to it by name seems to work for most people.

  • by perceptual.cyclotron ( 2561509 ) on Monday January 07, 2013 @07:31PM (#42511995)
    Not quite a fair comparison. In construction, you hold tools (often braced) in a wide variety of postures, with considerable rest periods (and I'm not taking a jab at lazy contractors) – whether in the form of actual rest, or simply as a result of transitional postures and tool exchanges. I've done a fair chunk of construction, and while you're absolutely correct that it involves a lot of arm work, it's a different beast entirely from just holding your arms out in front of you for an extended period of time...

The Macintosh is Xerox technology at its best.