Thoughts on the evolution of machine interfaces — Conquering the space of numbers

Sami Hamed
10 min readSep 16, 2019
Photo by Justin Peralta on Unsplash

Conquering the space of numbers - is the first part of a series I’m putting together about the evolution of machine interfaces and their design throughout time. It is based on notes collected during a research I did before starting to work in software development, studying social anthropology at Goethe University in Frankfurt (a. M.), Germany.

In its essence this first part describes early occurrences of machine-user interfaces and how technological innovation has resulted in certain cultural conventions surrounding modern computing tools and our concept and usage of numbers in our everyday life. The rest of the series will describe emerging GUIs (graphical user interfaces) and the future of digital computing devices. In addition things will get spicy once we start talking about a slowly dissolving barrier between the human body, its computational tools and its digital user profile — Cyborgs, in a world held together by binary information.

In this first part, however, I’ll start at “zero” discussing how humanity moved on from early tools to complex machines while developing systems of abstractions and continuously rediscovering the space of numbers on the way.

The products and tools (both physical and digital) that enhance human ability are in a way extensions of ourselves. Any task is a human task. Products address these tasks and help us carrying them out. Enhancement of human ability is the sole reason for a product’s or tool’s existence — Bert Brautigam

0/4 — Finding numbers

Before numbers started to play a role in society, humans had to learn to externalise meaning and collectively agree on common rulesets surrounding community, values and their immediate environment. Yuval Noah Harari beautifully describes the process on how and why humans started to connect through myths and how they initially started externalising value in currencies and goods in his book Sapiens — a must-read for everyone interested in the development of human society.

Sami Hamed

Engineering Manager & Product Engineer with a background in Social Anthropology