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Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do

Chapter 3: Computers as Persuasive Tools

Overview

Three months out of college and into a job that required him to sit at a desk most of the day, Jeff realized he was gaining weight. He resolved to start an exercise program.

A friend suggested that Jeff buy a heart rate monitor, a wrist-worn computer that looks like a watch and receives heart rate signals from a chest strap. The system would make it easier for him to track his heart rate and stay within his target zone while exercising.

Jeff had never paid much attention to his heartbeat before, but this device made it easy. He wore the device while working out at the corporate gym. He also wore it during the day and sometimes even to bed. That way, he could have the system store readings at periodic intervals while he slept. Jeff figured his resting heart rate while sleeping would be a good indicator of how much progress he was making in getting aerobically fit.

From the beginning of modern computing, [1 ]computers were created to be tools that had two basic functions: storing data and performing calculations. The early view of computers was a narrow one. In 1943, Thomas Watson, then chairman of IBM, infamously projected that there is a world market for maybe five computers. [2 ]The idea of a personal computer probably seemed outlandish, if anyone thought of it at all.

Computers as tools have come a long way in just over 50 years, as the opening anecdote illustrates.

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