It amazes me how much important applied research came out of AT&T.
Obituary for John E. Karlin, the man who designed the layout of the telephone keypad – and, more importantly, was one of the founders of what we today call user experience research. Karlin was a research psychologist (!) at Bell Labs, the first psychologist they hired, who studied what shapes of phone keypad made for the easiest, most accurate dialing; how long phone cords should be; and whether people could usefully remember and dial seven-digit numbers. Not only did he deeply influence the design of everyday objects, he helped point 20th-century design in the direction of focusing, first and foremost, on how users would actually respond to a particular industrial design. Our modern methods and approaches are the direct descendants of his work.
h/t for the link.
h/t for the link.
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- Part of it was being in the right place at the right time -- for a very long time. AT&T had a lot of control in a market dominated by network effects. And there was a huge amount of green-field opportunity in the early decades of applying electromagnetic science to the practical task of communication.Feb 11, 2013
- There's actually a fairly new book out on Bell Labs but I haven't read it. http://www.amazon.com/The-Idea-Factory-American-Innovation/dp/0143122797 I think there's a lot of truth in comment although, clearly, AT&T still had to make the decision to invest in research that didn't have obvious near-term returns.Feb 11, 2013
- John Karlin's Human Factors Department at Bell Labs in Holmdel NJ was on the same aisle in the Network Performance Planning Center as my own department in Network Performance Standards. That's how I met John, back in the 1970s. He had a way about him that was so charming that it gave me great pleasure to be able to do anything I could for him. He was one of the kindest souls I have ever known.
The Karlin's were like a second set of parents to me. And, as it turns out, I was a surrogate son to them. Not only did John lose his own son, who had died in a car crash, John's wife, Susan, had lost a brother (to suicide). In some strange way, my presence in their "family" helped fill those voids. I learned a great deal from John and Susan, whose gentle ways were an inspiration to me.
John Karlin made this world a better place, and I felt honored to have known him as a neighbor, as a professional colleague, and as a dearly beloved and fatherly mentor.Feb 11, 2013
- Wow -- thanks for that extra dimension to the story. I saw the obituary listing the deaths and wondered. I spend my time dealing with a lot of technology, but humans are really at the center of things. John Karlin apparently realized that in more ways than one.Feb 11, 2013
- Susan Karlin's first husband was a commercial airline pilot who died in an airplane crash (in which he was a passenger, not the pilot). John's son, who was a teenager when he died, would have been about five years younger than me. I didn't get to know the Karlin's until about 7 years after their respective tragedies, and for the longest time I had no idea about their past losses or why they were so gracious in welcoming me into their life and family.Feb 11, 2013