The exhibition showing at the Powerhouse Museum explores the true power of design and how it transformed complicated technology into appealing, easy-to-use products that have shaped our lives and how we interact with the world today.
This technology time warp reveals the experimentation of materials, innovative technologies and manufacturing techniques of products like the typewriter, radio, telephone and computer.
One of the highlighted pieces is the Xerox Alto computer that influenced Steve Jobs in the late 70s. After seeing it in an Xerox lab, he was transfixed by the concept of what you see is what you get. The mouse, the ability to print exactly what appeared on the screen and linking computers (Ethernet) so you could send and receive email. This ultimately transformed his vision for Apple and how he saw people using personal computers in the future. Xerox tried to commercialise these technologies, however it was too expensive. Despite this, Xerox helped pave the way for the computer interface we use today.
Another fascinating aspect to the exhibition is seeing the rapid evolution of iconic products like the iPod and the past influencers it had drawn upon. The timeless industrial designer of Braun, Dieter Rams, is featured heavily. Rams' products from the 50s and 60s were compared with Apple's iPod, Powermac computer and the 2G iPhone calculator app by Sir Jonathan Ive. They both share a similar methodology and approach that clearly defines a product's function, communicating a sense of purity in form. Ive's designs for Apple display a strong resemblance to Rams' in the treatment of form, finish and materials.
If you'd like to see for yourself how human-centred design in technology has progressed in the modern era, this is an exhibition worth visiting. Experience the history and evolution of interface design through the technology of the past and present which has now become integral in our everyday lives.
Interface: People, Machines, Design in Sydney until October 11th.
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