Drudge Retort: The Other Side of the News
Sunday, March 19, 2023

Although it only gets credited with one of them -- because Steve Jobs slipped up* -- all modern end-user computers owe three defining aspects of their design to the Alto.




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...These were the three significant aspects of the machine: the first GUI PC, the first networked PC, and the machine that drove OOPS into the mainstream.

That is according to Steve Jobs, anyway:

They showed me, really, three things, but I was so blinded by the first one that I didn't really see the other two. One of the things they showed me was object-oriented programming. They showed me that, but I didn't even see that. The other one they showed me was really a networked computer system. They had over 100 Alto computers all networked, using e-mail, etc., etc. I didn't even see that. I was so blinded by the first thing they showed me, which was the graphical user interface. I thought it was the best thing I had ever seen in my life. Now, remember it was very flawed. What we saw was incomplete. They had done a bunch of things wrong, but we didn't know that at the time. Still, though, the germ of the idea was there, and they had done it very well. And within ten minutes it was obvious to me that all computers would work like this, someday.


#1 | Posted by LampLighter at 2023-03-18 12:20 PM | Reply

Don't forget the first mouse!

#2 | Posted by LegallyYourDead at 2023-03-18 02:33 PM | Reply

@#2 ... the mouse ...

The mouse my have been consider part of the hardware needed to implement a GUI at the time, as much as needing a graphic-capable monitor.

But a good catch.

#3 | Posted by LampLighter at 2023-03-18 07:10 PM | Reply

Makes me want to rewatch Halt and Catch Fire.

#4 | Posted by censored at 2023-03-18 08:23 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

A blast from the 80's...

Kraftwerk - Computer World

#5 | Posted by LampLighter at 2023-03-18 08:56 PM | Reply

We bought out first home computer in 1985, a 512k Macintosh, what they called a 'fat-mac' (the original Mac had only 128k of memory). A couple of years later we had it updated to double-density floppy drives, 800k instead of the original 400k drives.

Our youngest son was only seven years old and he grew-up using computers. He got his first job working on computers before he was old enough to drive. We would dropped him off at a mortgage company where he and one of his high school friends had gotten a job working from when after they closed until about 10:00pm. This was back in the days before computers where on-line 24/7. They hired these high school kids because a) they knew computers and b) they were available to work nights when the office was closed. What they did was log into their systems, dial-up the home office and upload the day's records and transactions, download any updates or changes and then do a taped back-up for local recovery protection. He did this for about six months, and he's basically worked in IT ever since. After high school he went to work for a company that sold computer hardware and by the time he was 20 he was running their 800-number support team helping customers. He eventually left there and for bunch of years he worked for a company that was a certified Apple service provider. This is where he got his Apple Platinum service certificate.

Currently he's working for a company that does recovery and restoration for companies who've been hacked or have been hit with ransomware. He works with people like Dell and the FBI when they've been called into large American corporations. He, and his soon-to-be-wife, whose worked most of her life in logistics and program management, are currently putting together a deal with one of their 'private customers' whose company invests in start-ups, to go off on their own since he's been doing so good and he now has his Dell and FBI contacts and there's more business out there then can be handled by the current vendors.

Anyway, he's doing really well. For him, working with computers is just second nature as he's virtually grown-up with them.


#6 | Posted by OCUser at 2023-03-19 08:16 PM | Reply

The most common printers for PCs back then was the dot matrix... which started one of the worst jokes ever in the Silicon Valley.

"Who is this Dot Matrix, and what does she want anyway?"

told ya it was bad

#7 | Posted by Corky at 2023-03-19 08:26 PM | Reply

Yes, our 1985 'fat-mac' came with a dot-matrix printer. And we thought that we were the bee's knees.


#8 | Posted by OCUser at 2023-03-19 10:10 PM | Reply

Stonehenge is made from solid crystals (read about the old core sample). Try another analogy.

#9 | Posted by Brennnn at 2023-03-20 02:49 AM | Reply | Funny: 1


Very interesting read, from beginning to end. Thank you for posting it.

#10 | Posted by Twinpac at 2023-03-20 05:24 AM | Reply

Makes me want to rewatch Halt and Catch Fire.

#4 | Posted by censored

That was a great show.

The Apple IIc changed everything.

#11 | Posted by AMERICANUNITY at 2023-03-20 03:25 PM | Reply

I once worked for a huge computer manufacturing company with a three-letter acronym for a name. Xerox (in Sepulveda, CA) was one of my customers, (we were trying to get them to buy a new, small, mainframe system) and I saw the Xerox Star system with a white-on-black GUI and a mouse in 1981 (got to play with it). I don't recall whether I saw it before or after the introduction of the IBM PC that year. I got my first PC several months after the announcement (IBM totally blew it on forecasted sales).

The Alto was an experimental machine built by boffins in Xerox's Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC) in the early 1970s to explore new thinking in user interface design, and while never made available commercially " Xerox would sell the Star, a version of the Alto, in 1981 " a couple of thousand were made for use by Xerox staff and some were donated to universities and research facilities. Arguably the first personal computer " though some historians consider it a minicomputer " it was also the first to feature a graphical interface controlled by a mouse and to incorporate networking.

#12 | Posted by WhoDaMan at 2023-03-21 03:43 PM | Reply

"white-on-black GUI" should be black-on-white GUI

#13 | Posted by WhoDaMan at 2023-03-21 03:44 PM | Reply


the Alto wasn't a flop, as it's sometime [SIC] called because it wasn't a commercial product in the first place. Its successor the Star was the commercial version, so that was the flop, not the Alto. The other thing about the later machine that's often overlooked is that it was the Star that introduced the desktop metaphor. The Alto had no "desktop", and indeed, almost no elements of the familiar GUI we all know

#14 | Posted by WhoDaMan at 2023-03-21 03:50 PM | Reply

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