MACINTOSH AND THE FIRST GUI
When the Macintosh was introduced in 1984, it represented something
altogether new to the public – an affordable Graphical User
Interface (GUI) on a computer with a mouse. Suddenly, while others
were typing commands like “del index.com,” Mac users
were dragging and dropping the image of a file into the image
of a trash can. Users had a computer with an interface that made
sense (intuitive). But although Apple was the first to successfully
mass-produce a GUI, they were not its inventors, nor were they
the first to market it.
honor for producing the first working GUI goes to Doug Englebart
– at the time an employee of Stanford Research Institute.
Englebart and colleagues created a program called the oNLine System
in 1965-‘68. This program used the first mouse, a windowing
system, and hypertext, and was based on a description of a system
called “memex” proposed by Vannevar Bush in 1945.
The name “mouse” comes from this period. The mouse
used in oNLine had three buttons on one end and the line coming
out the other end. Apparently, the buttons for eyes and nose,
plus a cord for a tail, reminded the users of a mouse and the
later, still in a time when nobody knew what the future of computers
was to be, Xerox put together a team of researchers who did nothing
more than put ideas together to see what they produced. The team,
located at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, was convinced
that Englebart’s model would work on computers available
for individual work stations, and they produced two working models,
the Alto and the Star. The Star was made available to the public,
mouse and all, in 1981. But it was very expensive, and they sold
only 25 thousand of them. But this was the first GUI-based OS
available to the public.
Star had many limitations. The name is for the OS, which was very
powerful, and not the computer, which was not very powerful. The
computer was unable to handle the demands of the OS with predictable
Jobs, one of the founders of Apple, saw some of the potential
in a GUI during tours of the Xerox facility. Some say that is
where Jobs got his ideas for the GUI found on the Mac. Jobs did
see some programming that contained GUI concepts, but the development
team for the Lisa (and Bill Gates, by the way) saw the release
of the Star. Both the development team and Bill Gates left with
new visions for the future of the PC. The Lisa was retrofitted
with a GUI OS before it was released and Microsoft began working
on Windows. Like the Star, Lisa was a very expensive computer
and few sold.
The Macintosh was released in 1984 as a
relatively inexpensive alternative to Line Command Operating Systems,
and the rest (as they say) is history. Next
is an operating system?