We are accustomed to thinking of user interfaces in terms of screens, keyboards, and relatively local applications. Our user conducts a dialog with our application through the mechanisms we provide; at their simplest, these are just reads and writes built into our chosen programming language. With the advent of bit-mapped graphical workstations, seamless network integration, and several other exciting new technologies, we are going to witness a profound change in this viewpoint. We look at possible futures for astrophysical user interfaces, ranging from the use of GUI builders, through hypertext and multimedia, to virtual reality scenarios. We will show that the trend is to increasing transparency, so that the user interface will become less and less of an obvious intermediary, and more of a `looking glass' into astrophysical datascapes and cyberspaces. Examples will be presented of user interfaces available now, that begin to demonstrate these trends. Our primary example is HEASARC's StarTrax, which will provide access to many services, i.e. bulletins, catalogs, proposal and analysis tools, initially for the ROSAT MIPS (Mission Information and Planning System), later for the Next Generation Browse. Thanks are due to Nick White of the HEASARC/ASCA-GOF NASA/GSFC for initiating and supporting the StarTrax user interface development project.
Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems III
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