Cognetics' History

Charles B. Kreitzberg founded Cognetics Corporation in 1982. Dr. Kreitzberg, who is currently CEO of Cognetics, was Director of Technology Research/Development at the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey. He was an early advocate of software usability. In 1972, with his long-time colleague Ben Shneiderman, he published one of the first books on usability: The Elements of Fortran Style. Excited by the newly released personal computer, Kreitzberg left ETS to found Cognetics Corporation.

The Early Years

Building upon this experience in testing, Cognetics' first project was the development of coaching software for the SAT and ACT college exams (see New York Times review from 1983). This software, published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, became a best seller. It was the number one educational software title for over a year and was bundled with both Apple and IBM computers.


Early clients included Harper Collins, CBS Software, and Electronic Arts, for whom Cognetics developed an interactive novel (written by science fiction author Tom Disch) that Newsweek featured as the first novel written for computer.

ATM Design

In 1985, Citibank asked Cognetics to work with its new Humanware team to develop advanced user interfaces for ATM's. Working with Citibank's usability laboratory, Cognetics developed touch-screen interfaces that implemented a wide variety of platform operations and could be used flawlessly by consumers on the first attempt.


About the same time, Cognetics became interested in the new technology of Hypertext. Working with the University of Maryland's Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory, Cognetics developed a hypertext browser and authoring system known as Hyperties®. Hyperties® was used by many clients, including Union Carbide, which developed online safety manuals, and Hewlett Packard, which created online documentation for its LaserJet printers. Cognetics also developed the first book published in both print and hypertext formats.

Hyperties® was used by the Association for Computing Machinery to produce its first online magazine, "Hypertext on Hypertext" (a special issue of Communications of the ACM). Tim Berners-Lee of CERN cited this work in his proposal to develop the first hypertext browser for the World Wide Web.

Cognetics' skill in hypertext prompted Bell Laboratories to ask us to work with them in 1989, to push the state of the art in online multimedia. Working with Bell Labs, we developed an online, multimedia newspaper prototype that used the Hyperties® engine. Bell labs made a film about it for presentation at SIGCHI.

In another notable, pre-web, Hyperties® project, Cognetics worked with Hewlett Packard's product development team to develop an online manual for its LaserJet 4 printer. The LaserJet 4 series proved one of the most successful printer introductions in computer history, and Cognetics and HP garnered a Distinguished Award from the Society for Technical Communication for this work.

In 1990 the American Society for training and development gave Cognetics its Instructional Technology Organizational Award for ten years of innovation in technology and hypertext.

We extended our interest in hypertext to multimedia and partnered with Intel when it developed its first online digital video. We worked with Sharp and Ameritech to develop interactive television prototypes. Cognetics helped these companies develop interfaces (both on-screen and hand-held) that would allow consumers to interact with on-screen programming. We also developed concepts for interactive programs and implemented them for testing and demonstration.

AT&T asked us to develop an interactive video presentation to demonstrate the value of online user support. We created seven video scenarios showing how typical users might work with online documentation. Two technology organizations, the Society for Technical Communication (STC) and SIGCAT, gave Cognetics their highest award for this product.

The Web

As the web became more popular, we decided to retire Hyperties® in favor of the new Web Browsers that now offered most of the functionality we had developed for Hyperties®. Because we had a great deal of experience with hypertext, we began developing large encyclopedic databases for online use. Among many projects, one example is the Thomas Regional Industrial Buying Guides, the leading reference guide for manufacturing facilities, distributors, and service providers. Cognetics developed a system that allowed Thomas Regional to display information according to specific criteria.

"Cognetics was instrumental in executing the design concepts…"
"They helped ensure a very successful entry into the world of electronic publishing."

-George Short, CFO of Thomas Regional Directory Company, Inc

As broadband communication became more popular, we began to work in a more global fashion. One exemplary project was a global network we created for Novartis. This tool is used daily by hundreds of employees worldwide to find the information they need - about a drug, patent, project, research resource or another employee - through an intuitive intranet site.

Beginning in 1998 we began the development of web-based tools for managers to support decision-making and communication with their teams. We also begin the development of In the Know! which is now available as a hosted (SaaS) product.

We now have an active practice in organizational effectiveness and coaching for leaders and their teams. This includes business-technology alignment, Web 2.0 and social computing consulting.