In 1961, Douglas Engelbart had an idea for a computer-connected pointing device, known as ‘the mouse’. The first prototype was built in 1964. The computer received information through X and Y coordinates. He applied for a patient in 1967, and was awarded it in 1970. He first demonstrated it at the ‘Mother of All Demos’ in 1968. In the same presentation he also demonstrated the first Graphical User Interface (GUI), as well as the first working version of hypertext. In 1970, Xerox PARC was formed. They took the idea of the mouse and created the Xerox Alto, released in 1974, the world’s first computer to feature a GUI. David Canfield Smith would then invent icons, little images/illustrations to make the interface appear more inviting and user friendly. Revisions to the PARC user interface would be made and Xerox would release the Xerox Star in 1981. The Star was the first computer to feature graphical icons. The Xerox Alto and Star were never readily available for sale. Only a couple thousand of these computers were ever made. Most of them were owned and used by Xerox, but some universities also had them.
In 1979, Steve Jobs and a group of other Apple staff members were given a tour of Xerox PARC. This was a result of Apple letting Xerox buy 100,000 shares for $1 million when Apple Computer Inc. became a public company. Jobs and fellow colleagues were blown away by PARC’s GUI. Xerox’s higher up management didn’t understand the technology (the GUI or the mouse) and granted Apple the rights to both the GUI and mouse. Supposedly Apple never copied a line of Xerox code, and built their GUIs from the ground up. It was around this time that Apple started development on two projects, the Lisa and the Macintosh. After the failure of the Apple III, the Lisa was aimed at being the next big thing for Apple (the Macintosh project was sidelined). The Lisa was released in 1983 at a price of $10,000USD ($23,909USD in 2016 after inflation). Due to the extremely high price tag, the Lisa was unsuccessful.In 1961, Douglas Engelbart had an idea for a computer-connect pointing device, known as ‘the mouse’. The first prototype was built in 1964. The computer received information through X and Y coordinates. He applied for a patient in 1967, and was awarded it in 1970. He first demonstrated it at the ‘Mother of All Demos’ in 1968. In the same presentation he also demonstrated the first Graphical User Interface (GUI), as well as the first working version of hypertext. In 1970, Xerox PARC was formed. They took the idea of the mouse and created the Xerox Alto, released in 1974, the world’s first computer to feature a GUI. David Canfield Smith would then invent icons, little images/illustrations to make the interface appear more inviting and user friendly. Revisions to the PARC user interface would be made and Xerox would release the Xerox Star in 1981. The Star was the first computer to feature graphical icons. The Xerox Alto and Star were never readily available for sale. Only a couple thousand of these computers were ever made. Most of them were owned and used by Xerox, but some universities also had them.
This was when Microsoft started taking notice. They began developing their own GUI called Windows. Unlike Apple’s GUI, however, it would be made to work with most IBM and IBM clones, rather than being locked to one computer (the Lisa). Apple would rethink their approach and release the Macintosh in 1984 (at a more affordable but still expensive price of $2,495USD, $5,718USD in 2016 after inflation). Interestingly, the Macintosh had a different operating system to the Lisa, and was completely incompatible. In 1985, Microsoft released Windows 1.0. It wasn’t a separate operating system, but rather an ‘interface manager’ that ran on top of an existing installation of MS-DOS. 1985 also marked the launch of Graphical Environment Manager (GEM) from Digital Research. It is primarily known as the operating system used on the Atari ST series of computers, but it could also be used on Intel 8088 and Motorola 68000 computers. Another GUI released in 1985 was Amiga Workbench, the operating system that ran on the Commodore Amiga series of computers.
IBM and Microsoft began work on an operating system together. It would be called OS/2 and would be released in 1987. It never won over the market, however. This is for a few reasons. Firstly, it ran well on IBM computers, but lacked many of the necessary drivers to run on computers manufactured by other companies. Secondly, it was quite expensive in comparison to MS-DOS and Windows. It also required a minimum of 4MB RAM to run, which was quite large and expensive for the time. In 1990, Microsoft released Windows 3.0, the first widely successful version of Windows.
Microsoft wanted to focus more of their attention on Windows, and IBM didn’t like that Microsoft had a popular competing operating system, so the contract was terminated. IBM continued to develop OS/2 on their own for many years, but it was pretty much game over when Microsoft released Windows 95. IBM continued development until 2001.
In the mid 1980’s, Apple and Microsoft had a good relationship. Microsoft were the first company to receive a Macintosh prototype. Microsoft developed Word and Multiplan for the Macintosh, which supposedly counted for two thirds of Macintosh software sales. Microsoft wanted to make their own GUI, and sought after permission from Apple to use similar GUI elements that were found on the Macintosh. Apple saw no threat to this and licensed them to Microsoft for use in Windows 1.0. It didn’t sell particularly well and Apple thought they were safe. Windows 2.0, which would be released in 1987, included many enhancements, most notable would be that different windows could overlap each other. This was already a Macintosh feature, and Apple didn’t like it. They filed a lawsuit in 1988. Apple argued that Windows felt too much like the Macintosh operating system. The case was finalized in 1994. The court favored Microsoft, saying that such interface elements could not be copyrighted. Xerox also sued Apple for copying their interface elements.
In the 1990’s people were becoming more aware of the internet and what computers could do. Microsoft was aware of this fact and spent hundreds of millions of dollars advertising the launch of Windows 95. It was aimed at consumers; whereas Windows NT was aimed at businesses. Consumers were quite excited and were anticipating the launch. Microsoft threw a large launch party. Bill Gates got up on stage and officially launched Windows 95 on August 24, 1995. People were lined up outside computer stores waiting to get their hands on Windows 95 at midnight. For many home users, Windows 95 would be the first GUI they ever used, and it would pave the way for people to connect to the internet for the first time.
The 1990’s also saw the release and rise of Linux. It was primarily a hobbyist operating system, and in 2016, this still remains relatively true. The late 1990’s would see Steve Jobs return to Apple. He left in 1985 and formed NeXT Computer. They developed their own GUI and computers for universities, but were never successful, mainly due to their high price tag. Apple had made many poor business decisions and were close to bankruptcy. They purchased NeXT and appointed Jobs as Interim CEO. Jobs would bring Apple back to popularity with products such as the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. NeXT’s operating systems, NeXTSTEP and OPENSTEP would be incorporated into Mac OS to become Mac OS X, released in 2001, the same year as Windows XP. Windows would prove to be a massive success. Support and security updates were stopped in 2014, but over 10% of computers in 2016 still use it. Currently, there are more computers running Windows XP than computers running all versions of Mac OS X combined.
The 2000’s saw GUI’s integrated into more portable devices such as PDA’s and mobile phones. Blackberry phones were popular with businesses, while Nokia (and Motorola) phones were popular with consumers. Things began to change in 2007 with the launch of the first iPhone. Instead of buttons it used a touchscreen, which created a whole new way to interact with GUI’s. Also in 2007, Google unveiled Android. This operating system takes a different approach by using a more open system. This is in contrast to iOS, which is heavily locked down and controlled by Apple. Android was also able to run on phones (+ tablets etc.) from different manufactures, unlike iOS which only runs on Apple mobile devices.
Android allows phone manufactures to add their own GUI design elements and skins. Apple sued Samsung for having a similar look and feel to their GUI (quite similar to when Apple sued Microsoft over GUI elements in Windows 2.0), as well as other features such as double tap to zoom. This started a war of lawsuits. Apple won many court cases, and Samsung had to pay fines. In recent years, however, Samsung has won a few. Some lawsuits are still continuing in 2016. Currently Android has over 80% market share.
2007 saw the release of Windows Vista. It was originally intended to ship in late 2003, but was delayed many years due to new features and additions, as well as a complete design overhaul, among other things. Vista was received poorly by the public. This was mainly due to numerous driver issues, incompatibility with existing printers and high system requirements for the time.
With the rise of smartphones and tablets, computer usage had dropped. Windows 7 was a big success for Microsoft. Microsoft then tried to make Windows 8 more tablet oriented so that they could enter the tablet market with products such as the surface. While it worked well on tablets, it was frustrating to many traditional keyboard and mouse users. They tried to improve the experience with a free upgrade to Windows 8.1, but it was too late. They fixed most issues with the release of Windows 10 in 2015. It aimed to work well on tablets, laptops and desktops. It was offered as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and 8.1 users.
Please note: not all Graphical User Interfaces and events are included.