May 4, 1961
D. C. Engelbart
VOTE-INTERRUPT EQUIPMENT FOR GROUP-DISCUSSION USE
Rapid, anonymous interruption and point-of-order indication are provided.
Each participant is given a 5inch tubular "operator station" to hold. In natural holding position, there are two push-buttons under his thumb--a black "yes" button, and a red "no" button. There is a five-foot cord on this station, to the plug with which the participant connects into the distribution cable. The participant finds it easy to hold his station under the table, in his pocket, under his arm, or otherwise out of sight so that he can push the buttons anonymously.
All of the stations connect, through the distribution cabling, to a box that sits in sight of all and displays four meters and a light bulb. The meters give continuous indication, respectively, of 1) percentage of group voting "yes", 2) percentage of group voting "no", 3) percentage of group that is voting, and 4) the difference between those voting "yes" and those voting "no" in percentage of group membership (a zerocentered meter).
Whenever any one participant pushed both of his buttons simultaneously, regardless of the distribution of button pushing at that time, the light on the display box goes on, accompanied by a nicely audible relay click.
VARIOUS USE PROCEDURES
1) Formal voting. Someone states a clear issue, and calls for a vote. Each participant can cast a vote of either "yes", "no", or "don't care", "can't decide, decline to vote...", by pushing the corresponding button or else pushing neither button. Instantaneous, anonymous tally available from meters.
Besides obvious formal use, e.g., to pass on motions, there has emerged the interesting use of "group query." The two features of speed and anonymity make practical the presentation to the group of a program of questions to which rapid and honest answers can be expected. Clever programming (with branching, even) can develop an evaluation of group opinion that would be very hard to obtain otherwise; and one can obtain assessment of private thoughts (result of anonymity) that would be even harder to obtain otherwise.
2) Interrupt. For the case where a participant is unhappy about affairs, but is inhibited from speaking out because it is hard to get a word in, because it seems that no one else is disturbed, because a dominating participant has him cowed, etc., we have developed the following procedure. A numbered list is posted for all to see, spelling out various types of "points of order" that seem appropriate for this type of covert interruption (examples: irrelevant, not getting to the point, hair splitting, let's move on). The unhappy participant assumedly finds that the nth item states his feeling, so he blinks the light n times. Upon the anonymously caused nblink signal, the group automatically
May 4, 1961
notes what item n indicates, and promptly votes on whether or not they agree with the anonymous interrupter. In a matter of seconds the air is cleared (slightly idealized statement)-if people generally agree with the interrupter, popular pressure usually improves matters, makes some people stop to think and makes others bolder to speak out; if people generally disagree with interrupter, he often finds cause therein to take stock of his reasoning, opinions, or whatnot, and thereby becomes a better citizen, (perhaps thinking instead of fuming).
3) Spontaneous reaction. Participants can express general positive or negative reactions to the course of events in a spontaneous fashion. Sometimes useful.