The Technofile Web site has moved.


Technofile is now located at http://twcny.rr.com/technofile/
Please update your links, bookmarks and Favorites.  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
 

How the Mac (and Windows, and everyone else) got a GUI

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
 

Simple gray rule


How the Mac (and Windows, and everyone else) got a GUI
 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1992, The Syracuse Newspapers

In the early 1980s, the two Steves who had founded Apple Computer - Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak - drove over to a computer research center run by Xerox in Palo Alto, Calif. At "Xerox PARC," as the laboratory was called, a friend who worked at Xerox took them on a fateful tour.

The two Steves spotted an odd computer at PARC called the Star. Practically nobody remembers the Star these days, but the guys from Apple gave it a place in history. It made such an impression on them that they decided they had to make a computer of their own that worked the same way.

They borrowed the ideas of putting boxes on the screen, called windows, from the Star, and they also copied the way the Star showed little drawings of things on the screen. The little drawings, called "icons," did various operations when you moved a pointer over them.

The key to everything was a mouse - a device the size of a bar of soap that you rolled around on the desk beside the computer. Wherever the mouse went on the desk, the pointer went on the screen. When you clicked the button on the mouse, the computer went into action.

By now you know the rest of the story. The result of all of this was the Apple Macintosh. It made Apple rich and made IBM envious. But it had an even greater effect at Microsoft, the software company that IBM made famous when IBM picked Microsoft's DOS - MS-DOS - as the standard operating system for its PCs.

Microsoft set to work on a graphical user interface (or operating system) - a "GUI" of its own. The first version to become popular was called Windows 2. It was a poor imitation of the Mac's way of doing things. The came Windows 3, which was much better, but still not up to the level of the Mac.

And now there is Windows 3.1. It's Mac-like in many ways. And there's OS/2. It's Mac-like in many ways, too. And there's GeoWorks Pro. It's also Mac-like in many ways.

Yes, now you have a choice of three gooey (that's how "GUI" is pronounced) ways to use your PC. This means that 1992 could well be the year when most IBM-compatible users will consider switching from that old interface to the new one, mouse and all.

It also means the end of an era. As computers get easier to use, they are used more and more. And as they're used more and more, they become more like toasters and VCRs - essential appliances for many modern families. Even if you're a PC user, you can thank the two Steves for this revolution - and, of course, you should tip your hat to Xerox, which never made money off the Star.


 Image courtesy of Adobe Systems Inc.technofile: [Articles] [Home page] [Comments: afasoldt@dreamscape.com]