The iPhone 4’s ultra-sharp “Retina Display” really is a game changer. Until now, popular computer screens have been so low resolution, they could only display crude, low density, designs. It will take a few years for such high resolution screens to filter up into the personal computer space. But if you start writing an application that takes advantage of the iPhone 4’s display now, there will be millions of people who can use it by the time you’re done.
The best source I can recommend for understanding the kinds of designs that take full advantage of high PPI displays are Edward Tufte‘s classic design books:
If you just get one, make it The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.
PS: Tufte’s books are themselves examples of beautiful, complex, high density design, and as such really only make sense printed. At least for the next few years. Even if you can find an electronic version, I wouldn’t recommend reading it, because it won’t convey the power of a 1600 PPI display (printer).
I had some time to kill today, waiting for a catalytic converter replacement, and the book Design Your Life: The Pleasures and Perils of Everyday Things caught my eye. It’s loosely about about the value of design and how to apply UX to everyday life. I’ve only read1 a dozen or so pages of it in a bookstore, but so far I definitely recommend the book.
Visually it’s is appealing (but of course it has to be!), and accessibly written.
But what really impressed me the most, is that it gives you a critical eye and a reason to ask ‘why?’. And I think that’s the most important thing you can get out of a book on UX/design/accessibility.
The authors also have have a website which looks to be every bit as good as the book.
1You’re probably wondering why I didn’t buy the book if I like it enough to recommend it. Well, I had my iPhone with me in the store, and I looked up the price on amazon. It was half what the brick-and-mortar store was asking. So I didn’t buy it. Speaking of which, if you order the book through any of the links on this page, I get a small commission from Amazon. So please do doubt my recommendation — that’s what critical thinking is all about!
In high school, I literally wore out my copy of The New Turing Omnibus: Sixty-Six Excursions in Computer Science. The graphics topics are dated, and there is no discussion about newfangled topics in computing, like the internet. But the meat of the book are timeless computer science fundamentals. It still has the best explanation of what “NP-Complete” means (page 276) that I’ve run across.
The book covers some dense territory, but is still fairly accessible. When my mother asked me, “how can a computer make a random number, if it only does what it’s told?” I pointed her to the chapter 8, “RANDOM NUMBERS: The Chaitin-Kolmogoroff Theory” (page 49). The math was a bit over her head, but she could still read the chapter, and it answered her question. I recommend it to The New Turing Omnibus, without reservation, to anyone who’s considering Computer Science.
What are your favorite introductory Computer Science books?
Patrick Thomson suggests Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. It’s an excellent and fun introduction to the essential theory behind computer science.
Here is an excellent overview of the current state of the P=NP question.