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Section 3.4.2

Background

Provide enough information in a technical document to allow your reader to understand the specificproblem being addressed and to provide a context for your own document. This backgroundinformation may include (1) a historical summary of the problem being addressed; (2) a briefsummary of previous work on the topic, including, if appropriate, relevant theory; and (3) the specific reasons the document is being written.

In short documents, include background information in the introduction. In longer documents, however, putting some or all ofthe background information in a separate section with a heading may be more effective. Long and fairly complex reports,especially experimental reports where the purpose of the documentis to verify, evaluate, illustrate, or apply one or more theories, often include a separate theory section.


1.1 Historical Perspective

Historically, the issue of modes in human computer interaction emerged as more and more functionswere added to early word processors, and yet the size of the interface (e.g., number of function keys,screen area, etc.) stayed constant. One solution was to use the same key to engage severalcommands; this was implemented by providing the user with some mechanism to switch theapplication from one mode to another. Depending on the mode, hitting the same key would executedifferent commands. In this paper the term format/data-entry modes is used to describe this type ofmode implementation. For example, the vi text editor has two modes of operation: "Command" and"Insert." In "Command" mode, pressing the "x" key will delete a character; in "Insert" mode thisaction will write the letter "x" on the screen.

Users of these early applications, however, were not always happy with such mode implementations:errors, or mode-errors, as these were termed by Norman (1981), caused confusion and frustration(Lewis, and Norman, 1983). Tesler (1981) captured this growing frustration in his influential articlein Byte magazine and his pointed cry: "don't mode me in." Research on modes in thehuman computer interaction literature has mostly focused on various implementations for the modeswitching mechanism (Monk, 1986; Thimbleby, 1982). The problem, nevertheless, has notdisappeared: designing efficient modes and switching mechanisms continues to be part of anyhuman-computer interface.

The same growing pains are now shared by designers and operators of supervisory control systems. Since most supervisory control systems are managed via a computer, format/data-entry modes forinput of information and display switching are heavily used. But in most supervisory control systemsthere is also another type of mode: one that is used for controlling the process. This unique modeis the method used for engaging various control behaviors (e.g., reverse/drive gears in a car). In thispaper, the term control modes is used to describe this type of implementation.

--A. Degani et al., "Mode Usage in Automated Cockpits: Some Initial Observations,"Proceedings of the International Federation for Automatic Control(IFAC)


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