Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

BoomTown Prediction: Chasing Away the Mice (And Keyboards Too)

The Washington Post, where I once toiled, asked me to do a short piece recently for a spring-cleaning feature in its Outlook section.

It was titled “Twelve Things the World Should Toss Out,” and the candidates nominated by others include: Harvard Law School’s Elizabeth Warren nixing fine print, feminist blogger Jessica Valenti dumping virginity, political whisperer Karl Rove hating exit polls and actor and activist Ed Begley Jr. giving the heave-ho to lawns.

BoomTown’s choice: The physical computer keyboard and its partner-in-carpal-tunnel-syndrome, the mouse.

You can vote here on which is the most useless of the suggestions.

Here’s the piece, which–before you go all technical on me–I wrote on an Apple (AAPL) iPad with a virtual keyboard and touchscreen.

And frankly, if I could have my blog posts downloaded directly from my noggin, it would be okay by me:

The prototype of the first computer mouse–which got its name because of the wire that trailed it–was invented by Doug Engelbart in 1963.

Yes, nearly 50 years ago.

But it’s only a toddler compared with the keyboard, which is a direct descendant–via punch-card and teletype technologies–of the typewriter, patented in 1868 by Christopher Latham Sholes.

In other words, it’s long past time for a change in the way we interact with the digital devices that have proliferated in our lives. While the keyboard and the mouse have introduced billions of people to the digital experience, they have become antiquated obstacles to the kind of computing that is now emerging.

This new computing is immersive, augmented and completely social. As sci-fi movies predicted, our digital devices are poised to become even more ubiquitous. They will surround us, responding to our expressions, emotions and gestures.

From wearable devices to sensors that will envelop our world to 3-D screens that will react to us, personal computing is about to get a lot more personal. Internet-based television now in development will recognize a viewer and deliver customized entertainment.

And it will do this without the trusty keyboard and mouse. We’re already phasing them out, thanks to the increasing popularity of touchscreens–including the patron saint of all this, the Apple iPhone, and a spate of copycat smartphones. All of these devices allow users to navigate without physical buttons or input devices.

Thus, with a flick of the finger, the era of the mouse and the keyboard will soon be over.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald