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Text entry on handheld computers by older users.
Wright, P., Bartram, C., ROGERS, N., EMSLIE, H., Evans, J., & WILSON, B. A.
Ergonomics, 43, 702-716, 2000.
Year of publication:
Small pocket computers offer great potential in workplaces where mobility is needed to collect data or access reference information while carrying out tasks such as maintenance or customer support. This paper reports on three studies examining the hypothesis that data entry by older workers is easier when the pocket computer has a physical keyboard, albeit a small one, rather than a touchscreen keyboard. Using a counter-balanced, within-subjects design the accuracy and speed with which adults over 55 years of age could make or modify short text entries was measured for both kinds of pocket computer. The keyboard computer was the Hewlett Packard 360LX (HP), but the touch-screen computers varied across studies (experiment 1: Apple Newton and PalmPilot; experiment 2: Philips Nino; experiment 3: Casio E10). All studies showed significant decrements in accuracy and speed when entering text via the touch-screen. Across studies, most participants preferred using the HP's small physical keyboard. Even after additional practice with the touch screen (experiments 2 and 3) many entries still contained errors. Experiment 3 showed that younger people were faster but not more accurate than older people at using the touch-screen keyboard. It is concluded that satisfactory text entry on palm-size computers awaits improvements to the touch-screen keyboard or alternative input methods such as handwriting or voice. Interface developments that assist older people typically benefit younger users too.