A systematic approach to establish fundamental principles of computer applications packages design

  • Ihab A.R. Tawfic

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This work attempts to create a systemic design framework for man-machine interfaces which is self consistent, compatible with other concepts, and applicable to real situations. This is tackled by examining the current architecture of computer applications packages. The treatment in the main is philosophical and theoretical and analyses the origins, assumptions and current practice of the
design of applications packages. It proposes that the present form of packages is fundamentally contradictory to the notion of packaging itself. This is because as an indivisible ready-to-implement solution, current package architecture displays the following major disadvantages. First, it creates problems as a result of user-package interactions, in which the designer tries to mould all
potential individual users, no matter how diverse they are, into one model. This is worsened by the minute provision, if any, of important properties such as flexibility, independence and impartiality. Second, it displays rigid structure that reduces the variety and/or multi-use of the component parts of such a package. Third, it dictates specific hardware and software configurations which probably results in reducing the number of degrees of freedom of its user. Fourth, it increases the dependence of its user upon its supplier through inadequate
documentation and understanding of the package. Fifth, it tends to cause a degeneration of the expertise of design of the data processing practitioners.
In view of this understanding an alternative methodological design framework which is both consistent with systems approach and the role of a package in its
likely context is proposed. The proposition is based upon an extension of the identified concept of the hierarchy of holons* which facilitates the examination of the complex relationships of a package with its two principal environments.
First, the user characteristics and his decision making practice and procedures; implying an examination of the user's M.I.S. network. Second, the software environment and its influence upon a package regarding support, control and operation of the package.
The framework is built gradually as discussion advances around the central theme of a compatible M.I.S., software and model design. This leads to the formation of the alternative package architecture that is based upon the design of a number of independent, self-contained small parts. Such is believed to constitute the nucleus around which not only packages can be more effectively designed, but is also applicable to many man-machine systems design.
Date of AwardJul 1975
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJ.C. Watt (Supervisor)


  • computer applications
  • packages design

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