Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The History of Computing III - Apple Macintosh

Although a great improvement over punch cards, some computer scientists saw limitations in a computer with only a keyboard for input and text for output. It was fine for researchers and computer experts to interact with the machine through obscure commands and oblique text messages, but if the computer was going into every home, it needed to interact with users in a different way.

In the early 1970s, researchers at Xerox developed a series of computers that communicated with the user through pictures, not just words. The culmination of their early efforts was the Xerox Star. It had “windows,” a “mouse,” and many other elements you would recognize today. Eventually this method of computer use—mostly visual, with little text—would be called a graphical user interface (or GUI), and every computer would have one. Unfortunately for the executives at Xerox, they proved better at funding interesting projects than at marketing the results.

Steve Jobs, the president of Apple Computers, toured the Xerox research facility in 1979, having traded some Apple stock for Xerox stock. He’d been told about this new interface and wanted to see it. He left impressed, and decided that Apple’s new computer, the “Apple Lisa,” would be the first mass-produced computer with a graphical user interface. Many of the Xerox researchers would soon be working at Apple.

Not many Apple Lisas were sold. It was an expensive computer, costing $10,000 when it debuted in 1983. But because Jobs was convinced that the GUI was the model for the future, he tried again.

During the Super Bowl in 1984, Apple ran one of the most famous commercials in history to introduce their next computer, the Apple Macintosh. Directed by Ridley Scott, director of the movie Blade Runner, it depicted an Orwellian future of gray-clad workers who mindlessly pay homage to a “Big Brother” figure on a huge video screen, until an athletic woman in running clothes smashes the screen with a flying hammer. What this had to do with the Macintosh was never clear, but the commercial was widely discussed around office water coolers and was repeated on news programs. Soon everyone had heard of the “Mac.” The new computer was cheaper than the Lisa, but less powerful. As with the Lisa, it was a slow seller at first, but the company stuck with it. There was no turning back to text-based computers.

Source of Information : Broadway-Computer Science Made Simple 2010
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