Monday, July 28, 2008

Xerox Star



For a long long time, I've wondered what the Xerox Star was really capable of. Now I know (oh how I love the internets)!

Years ago, during a trip to Boston, my brother, Rand, and I visited a couple's penthouse apartment. It was lavishly decorated: the finest modern furniture and a perfect view of the harbor. But instead of art, they'd removed the motherboards out of esteemed computers, both old and recent, and had them all framed behind shining plexiglas. The effect was dazzling. Were they art or antiques? Afterwards, my brother swore to do the same thing some day (though he still hasn't gotten around to it).

I don't remember if the Xerox Star was part of the collection, though it should have been. Released in 1981, the Star was the first commercially available personal computer that defined the graphical display screen or "desktop" interface we all still use today: windows, icons, selecting, pasting, dragging, folders, files... it was all there and hasn't change very much since. Here's a time-line that shows the evolution from the Star to the operating systems of today (the Xerox Alto, developed in 1973 was never commercially available).

Demo part 2 of 3
Demo part 3 of 3