Home > Articles

The Author's Usability Background

by Bill Lauritzen

In the early 1970s, I received a Master's Degree in Human Factors (and Industrial Psychology ) from Purdue University. My advisor there was Dr. Ernest McCormick, who was one of the founders of the field of Human Factors Engineering and whose textbook on the subject was the standard for many years.

Before that, I graduated with honors from the Air Force Academy where my advisor was Roger Bate, who wrote the classic Dover textbook on astronautics, and who was also the Head of the Computer Science Department. Upon graduation from the Academy, I was named the outstanding graduate in Psychology and also in Philosophy.

In the Air Force, I worked at Edwards Air Force Base, where I was involved in cockpit usability testing for the F-15, which was the latest high-speed jet. We tested what was a relatively new idea at that time: the heads-up display. I worked closely with the test pilots, documenting their use of the cockpit, gathering their feedback, and sending design change recommendations back to the manufacturer. I had help on this task, as I worked with three other human factors engineers. We, in turn, worked closely with many other engineers on the F- 15, such as electrical, propulsion, and radar engineers. I was also responsible for observing and writing a report on pilot workload under simulated combat conditions. In addition, I did some work on the human factors of maintenance tasks on the F-15, using video.

Over the past 20 years, I have done in-depth, independent research into making education more student-centered. I developed a user-centered language for mathematics, which consists of a simpler nomenclature for over 250 mathematical terms. I wrote about this in my article, " SpeakEasy Math ." Some of this nomenclature is now being informally tested in several places. I also wrote a ground-breaking paper called " Versatile Numbers ," which has received praise from several sources, and eventually might transform our civilization through the use of a more user-centered and holistic number base.

I also developed the Symmetrical Alphabet and the ABC Wheel as user-centered alphabets to make it easier for students to learn the English alphabet.

In the general area of education, I coined the phrases, "link the ink" and "ground the sound," as part of a large field study on education . In this field study, I tried to isolate those factors that make education user-centered . I also began developing new nomenclature for several other subjects besides mathematics.

In science, I started Project SpaceHenge . This project is partly designed to make certain common scientific concepts (related to the Earth's motion around the Sun) more accurate and user-centered. In fact, SpaceHenge could be thought of as a huge Human-Sun-Earth interface.

I have contributed significantly to the field of history with my papers on ancient Egypt and the prehistoric, anthropological beginnings of religions. I could not have written these without my human factors, user-centered background.

I designed and built an ergonomic chair:

Lately, I have turned my attention to the human computer interface. I have written a 1) Web Site Ergonomics Checklist and a 2) Web Site User Survey. Also, I coined the phase " Homo sapien interface " to emphasize the need to consider the evolutionary backdrop of humanity in design.

I have designed and built my own web site: www.earth360.com which, though a very basic site, incorporates many principles of human factors.