The first computer I ever programmed was the IBM 1130 and initially input meant using a card reader. Output meant using a line printer. Now if you were really lucky, which means you were in an advanced course and had permission to use the computer after hours you might be allowed to use the console keyboard or even signal the computer using the toggle switches on the CPU's front panel. Pretty heady stuff back in the early 1970s.
Later of course came light pens on early CRTs and then the mouse. Ah, the mouse. I still remember the first time a mouse made sense to me. I tried out a drawing program on an early Apple Macintosh. Wow! What control; what power; what else would you use it for though? Of course I learned what else as more and more applications took advantage of the mouse's capabilities.
Recently I really started discovering the benefits of using the Xbox 360 Controller as an input device. While I initially got my 360 controller to play games, and create my own using XNA Game Studio Express, I soon found out that I could use it for other things. I have used the 360 controller to mover simulated robots around in Microsoft Robotics Studio's simulator.
Even more fun though has been using the controller to "fly" thorough the virtual world on Virtual Earth. They've just added a lot of 3-D views of New York City and several other metropolitan areas BTW. In any case using the 360 controller lets me move around the world, zoom in and out and generally navigate in a very natural way. I'm just waiting for creative people to come up with more applications that use this device in innovative new ways. Oh and since the controller vibrates I can see "output" possibilities as well.
What's new today? The Surface Computer that lets you use your hands to directly interact with a computer. There is a great video demo at On10. The demo starts with a paint program. Where have we seen that before? There are some interesting sample applications - wait until you see the video puzzle in the last two minutes of the demo. But for me the interesting thing there will be to see what new applications or more specifically new and interesting ways to do things this technology will bring in the future.