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The Graphical User Interface History (kartsci.org)
72 points by brendanfalk 5 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments


Screenshot provided is neither GNOME nor KDE, it is WindowMaker. Most screenshots in the article have terrible resolution. A better site to see history of GUI is: http://toastytech.com/guis/index.html

the apps look like KDE though. i guess the first version of KDE didn't have its own window manager or at least wasn't tied to a specific window manager, so some people used window maker instead.

I think kde 1.0 shipped with its own window manager. Don't remember if it was already called kwin though: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4f/KDE_1.1....

Although many people might have not seen most of the GUIs in this article, the article is also horribly wrong on some of them. The screenshot for KDE/GNOME has absolutely nothing to do with KDE/GNOME (besides maybe if you wanted to use Window Maker as a window manager during the early versions of GNOME where it didn't really have its own window manager).

The article constantly misspells "X Window" as "X Windows" which for anyone who has even a small interest of GUIs through the years may find incredibly irritating.

But the cherry on top is the absolutely outrageous lie that OSX was introduced with the Mac transition from PowerPC to Intel. This is just ridiculous.

I don't know much of the other GUIs and I can not comment if they too were horribly represented.

Newton OS, PalmOS and General Magic's Magic Cap are significant omissions in this history.

And of course, iOS and Android.

Thinking of mobile devices you also had EPOC which was the ancestor of Symbian and predates Newton and PalmOS by a few years.

There is definitely a market gap for devices like the old The Psion 5MX. i.e. A ultra-mobile device with a really satisfying keyboard experience.

I would pay for 2021 internals and screen in a G1 (first flippy android) shaped package. Or Psion - though I found thumb typing much easier on a 3 series rather than 5.

No love for the GUI on the Symbolics Lisp Machine?

No Apollo or SunView or NeWS either. No desqview. Quite a few important omissions

None of the Lisp GUIs seems to be represented, but at least they got the PERQ.

In the Mother of All Demos[1], Engelbart's 5-key contraption is a "chorded keyboard," an idea that resurfaces from time to time. Engelbart also talked about UI for trained adults vs the kind of GUI we are used to today, designed for children. The difference in design based on intended use both in the mechanical inputs and in the display are incredibly important. One would hope that similar ideas shape designs today.

There is no mention of PLATO[2] whatsoever.

And I stopped scanning. Maybe this is intended as a "personal history" of GUIs, but otherwise, it's lacking.

[1] https://invention.si.edu/mother-all-demos

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PLATO_(computer_system)

I'm not sure I'd call PLATO a GUI. You could implement GUIs with PLATO terminals, but I don't think anything like that was ever done. The same goes for the Tektronix DVST terminals - one could have written a simple GUI for them, but I don't think that was ever done. I'm not quite sure what can be called a GUI - does it need to be something that's not tied to a specific application? Would AutoCAD be a GUI? Does a GUI require the concept of windows? Does an iPhone have a GUI?

I thought of it as either a good start or shooting for concision.

Since we're all recommending things for inclusion, I think some nod to the new breed of tiling Window Managers like i3 might be good. By dispensing with the desktop metaphor and de-emphasizing the mouse I think they're a significant departure (to me they are a little like the expert UIs mentioned by Engelbart).

That page you linked for the Mother of All Demos is a nice jumping off point.

Absent a good definition of what a GUI is, I'm unsure a list like this could ever aspire to be complete. Does a GUI need to allow you to launch a program? Did Quattro Pro for DOS had a GUI?

you might enjoy In The Beginning Was The Command Line by Neil Stephenson. Author of Diamond Age and Snowcrash.

Funny how the early Windows OS did not even use a graphics mode but used ascii symbols to render windows.

Windows always ran in graphical mode AFAICT[1], it’s just that the system font was monospace (Fixedsys), as every 3.x porting guide and even Petzold ≤ 5th ed. mentions. Apparently IBM’s TopView (released in 1985, same as Windows 1.0) was a text-mode windowing environment with preemptive(!) multitasking, but I can’t find much about it (seems that it was designed to run existing DOS applications, thus didn’t do virtual memory and ended up too memory-hungry for the time?).

[1] See, e.g., http://toastytech.com/guis/win1x2x.html

And ASCII is a 7-bit code. There is no provision for line drawing characters. People often confuse ASCII with the PC's character ROM, but ASCII is a different animal.

It looks like a graphics mode to me (https://guidebookgallery.org/screenshots/win101) when looking a the icons that are displayed (the pencil icon at that link especially), even while the windows look like they are done with ascii characters.

[EDIT: Also, buttons had rounded corners. HTH did Apple get a design patent on rounded corners?]

You are right. Guess i did not look close enough..

I always thought that windows 1.0 was ugly, maube because i've seen black and white screenshots. But this looks good compared to windows 10.

Windows 10 sniping aside, Raymond Chen commented on the flat-3D-flat fashion cycle in the Windows UI back in 2004[1], though the motivation for the current iteration is probably better explained by its authors[2]. I can’t even say I disagree with their points, it’s just that the result kind of sucks.

(Anything is better than the 4-colour-CGA Windows ≤ 3.x interface, though.)

[1] http://bytepointer.com/resources/old_new_thing/20040728_291_...

[2] https://web.archive.org/web/20111129024938/http://kruzeniski...

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