The computer mouse, when it first went mainstream, was awkward to describe but easy to use. “Instead of typing instructions, one points to pictures on the screen by sliding a handheld device called a mouse along the top of the desk next to the computer,” The New York Times wrote in 1983.
The mouse added a layer of depth to the experience of computing, one that married tactile movement and digital action. It’s the perfect example of technology that makes so much sense you forget it’s there while you’re using it: an interface that feels like it’s as much an extension of the person as it is of the machine.
The same might be said of Apple’s 3D Touch, the pressure-sensor system beneath the screen of the iPhone’s latest models, the 6s and 6s Plus. Much of what 3D Touch enables seems natural: Pressing harder on the surface of the phone elicits a difference response than pressing on it more softly. It is, in this way, a throwback to the analog past—like the way pounding on a typewriter’s keys leaves darker letters on the page. With 3D Touch, if you’re drawing on the iPhone’s notepad, pressing harder will produce a bolder line; or if you're playing the Magic Piano app, pressing harder will make a louder note.