Letter From The Editor

Touching the Future.

One afternoon as we were putting this issue of Fast Company to bed, I stood behind the chair of our art director, Dean Markadakis, peering over his shoulder at his computer screen as he tried out different photographs for the cover. He clicked on directories to summon up images, switched to drop-down menus to resize the pictures, and then clicked back to the cover to drop them in place. He also groaned in frustration when he couldn’t find the photo he was looking for, when the software balked, or when the wrong picture came up.


Dean is a highly skilled, deeply experienced pro, and he works with some of the most powerful publishing software out there. If it’s a frustrating experience for him, is it any wonder that the rest of us mere mortals sometimes want to put a foot through the screen? The personal computer has brought many wonderful things, but more than a quarter-century since the revolution began, it is still hard to use, nonintuitive, inhumane.

As I was watching Dean struggle, I couldn’t help but think how much easier his life would be if he were able to use the amazing interface being developed by Jeff Han. Han, who’s profiled this month in Can’t Touch This by contributing writer Adam L. Penenberg, may be about to change the face of computing.

You know those Hewlett-Packard television ads in which celebrities like Mark Cuban, Jay-Z, and Shaun White seem to pull images out of their computers and display them in thin air, move them around, make them grow, shrink, disappear? The ads are the product of video special-effects magic, of course, but here’s the thing: Using Han’s touch-screen interface, you can do all that stuff, and much more, for real. Unlike conventional touch screens, which are really just big buttons, Han’s screen responds to multiple touch points, to movement, and to pressure.

The result is an easy, natural approach to computing that has to be seen to be believed (and to see it for yourself, check out our exclusive demo). Want to move an image? Put your finger on it and pull it where you want it to go. Want to enlarge it? Put two fingers on it and pull them apart. Use your hands to fly through landscapes, draw pictures, burrow through layers of information.

It’s easy to imagine what high-end users like Dean could do with Han’s invention. But it’s even more intriguing to think about its implications for fumblers like me. What’s revolutionary about Han’s system is that there is for the first time nothing between you and the data. No keyboard, no mouse, no menus. It turns computing into something very human–an intuitive, immediate, and physical experience. In fact, it makes computing a lot like play. The PC is finally growing up, it seems, by coming to terms with the kid in us all.

P.S. One of this magazine’s central themes is that business can be a profound force for good. That applies to us, too. I’m proud to announce that, beginning with this issue, we are printing Fast Company on 80% post-consumer recycled paper.