Abstract

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—well before concepts like usability, user-centered design, or human factors existed—producers and consumers began negotiating issues about pushing buttons. This article details the conflicts that occurred between creators and their users around the push-button interface. While button enthusiasts imagined a new breed of user who could control, communicate, and consume with the simple touch of a finger, reports of actual experiences tell a different story about first-generation button pressers. The study interrogates how rhetoric about buttons as “easy” persists today, overwriting complexities and challenges that occur when interacting with information and communication technologies.

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