Peter Zelchenko

Portfolio > Screen and Interface > Next-Generation Notes Project

Next-Generation Notes Project. Workshops and plan for interactive support for mobile devices. I assembled a group of very enthusiastic computer science students under the advisorship of Prof. Roy Campbell at UIUC, to explore questions of simplicity and multiplatform design in the growing BBS and online community spaces. All of us felt that the design of Web-based interactive forums was bloated with useless icons, emoticons and graphics, without a hint of thought about screen economy and speed. The first mobile devices were coming onto the market, and in going back to the drawing board prototyping extremely light platforms, we examined the original 1970s PLATO model and thought how, for example, strict HTML might best be exploited on the first Palm Pilots and Blackberries.

Above: PLATO's 1974 Notes, in emulation and still active on the incredible Cyber1 system.

Above: One strict-HTML design concept. We made a mock index of 40,000 forum topics using basic HTML <OL> numbered lists and the simplest, most elegant universal format we could muster, and the index displayed beautifully in the browser — in under three seconds. Although 40,000 topics without subindexing would be absurd, our conclusion at the time was that mixing scrollbars and paging of items in a multipage list should be avoided. We're still plagued with that design paradox, although innovations like Ajax are beginning to open up new doors, some good and some bad.