A Critical History of Computer Graphics and Animation

Section 16b:
GUI Timeline

The History of GUI Timeline


- Sketchpad is developed at MIT by Ivan Sutherland.


- The first mouse-like pointing device is created by Douglas Engelbart at SRI International, and further developed at Xerox PARC in the 1970s.


- Alan Kay develops the concept of GUI in his dissertation research at the University of Utah. The GUI concept is realized in his later work at Xerox PARC.
- Bell Labs developed the first frame buffer for storing and displaying 3-bit images. The frame buffer was an essential to the bitmapped technology of later GUIs.


- The Alto, the first computer to have a modern graphical user interface, is born at Xerox PARC.
- Dick Shoup's "Superpaint" frame buffer application stores it's first video image. Although most of Xerox PARC's GUI research was on grayscale displays, Superpaint helped lead the way to color GUIs.


- Dan Ingalls at PARC invents "BitBlt", a display algorithm that will make possible the development of such features of the modern GUI as overlapping screen windows and pop-up menus.
- Tim Mott and Larry Tesler at PARC begin work on Gypsy, the world's first user friendly word processing application using pop-up menus and icons. Gypsy was later to become Microsoft Word. Larry Tesler later moved to Apple and was one of the key members of the LISA development team.
- The first modern ball-mouse device is created by Ron Rider at PARC we he was inspired to flip a trackball device upside down and use it as a mouse.


- the first major demonstration of a graphical user interface by PARC engineers to their colleagues on an Alto computer including icons, windows, and pop-up menus powered by BitBLT.


- Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak found Apple computer. The Apple II personal computer does not have a GUI, but uses bitmapped raster graphics.
- The Alto personal computer and it's graphical user interface are presented to the Xerox sales force during "Futures Day" at the Xerox World Conference. The laser printer and computer networking are also introduced.
- The first portable personal computer, the Xerox Notetaker, is introduced along with the Dorado.


- Steve Jobs and engineers from Apple visit Xerox PARC. They would later incorporate much of what they saw into the design of the Lisa and Macintosh.


- first commercial distribution of the GUI in the Xerox STAR which introduced pointing and selection with the mouse. 9 IBM introduces it's PC running DOS, a non-graphical, command line operating system. The IBM PC would later be the main platform for Microsoft Windows.


- the GUI is popularized by Apple computer with the Lisa and Macintosh.
- the Macintosh becomes the first successful mass-marketed personal computer with a GUI.


- Microsoft Windows 1.0 is developed for use on IBM PCs, does not become popular until version 3.1


- X Windows System for Unix Workstations becomes widely available.
- IBM's Presentation Manager is released, which is intended to be a graphics operating system replacement for DOS.


- Steve Job's new company NeXT develops NeXTStep, a GUI for it's Unix based computers. This becomes the first to simulate a three-dimensional screen. Later when Steve Jobs returned to Apple, NeXTStep would merge with the Mac OS to create Mac OS X.


- Several Unix-based GUIs are introduced. These include Open Look, by AT&T and Sun Microsystems, and Motif for the Open Software Foundation by DEC and Hewlett-Packard. Motif's appearance is based on IBM's Presentation Manager.
- Microsoft releases Windows 3.0 developed jointly with IBM to become an interim step to OS/2.


- OS/2 Workplace is released by IBM.
- Microsoft releases Windows 3.1.


- Microsoft releases Windows 95 which challenges IBM's OS/2 concept and plans.
- Windows NT replaces Windows 3.1 for Workgroups, a better networked, more professional version of Windows 95.


- NeXT develops OpenStep an improved version of the NeXTStep GUI.


- Windows 98 is released which later becomes Windows Me (Millennium Edition) in 2000.
- the iMac coupled with OS 8.5 gives the consumer market a more user friendly computer, with easy access to the internet.
- other GUI-based operating systems are developed such as the BE OS that is cross-platform, and operating systems for small PDA computers such as Windows CE, the Palm OS, Apple Newton, and others.


- OS 9, the last revision of the original Mac OS is released.
- additional GUI-based operating systems are developed for web-phones, PDA computers, and other devices.
- the optical mouse (Intelemouse Explorer) is marketed by Microsoft.


- Windows 2000 replaces Windows NT as Microsoft's high-end operating system.
- Apple introduces an optical mouse.
- Mac OS X (Public Beta) becomes the first major overhaul of the Mac OS since the original.OS X combines the Mac GUl's easy of use with the stability of the Unix platform by including elements from NeXTStep and OpenStep, the GUIs developed by Steve Job's former company, NeXT.

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Click on the images below to view a larger version (when available).

Ivan Sutherland with Sketchpad

Alan Kay

Alto computer




Wozniak and Jobs with first Apple computer




Apple Lisa