Gee Whillickers!

The History of the Graphical User Interface

The graphical user interface, or “GUI” (often said gooey), is a computer interface that uses graphic icons and controls with a pointing device, such as a mouse, to operate a computer. As opposed to the text-based command line interface where the real geeks input commands into the computer.

In the beginning…

Online FJCC

The ’60s were swinging when the first developments of the concept of an on-screen, real-time graphic computer display took place.

An example of a very early proposed GUI, the On-Line System, integrated the use of a mouse-driven cursor, inspired in part by an idea that dated back to 1945.

The Not-So-Wimpy

Xerox PARC System
Unknot your skinny ties and don your bellbottoms! The ’70s brought major advances from Xerox PARC with the development of the system called WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus and Pointers). The acronym kinda gives you an idea of what computer programmers thought of GUI systems even at their earliest stage.

Xerox Desktop

Xerox Desktop - zoom

However, the WIMP system has been used as a paradigm for the development of GUIs even to this day (especially custom video game interfaces).

Apple® Throws Its Hammer

Apple Desktop

Apple took it to the next level in the early ’80s. Its system employed a desktop metaphor—meaning files that looked like pieces of paper, directories that looked like folders, you get the idea. Apple also brought drop down menus to the computer world, introduced window overlapping, a fixed menu bar, manipulable icons, direct manipulation of objects in the file system and many other developments that continue to persist through to present-day systems.


GEM Atari

While Microsoft® was developing Windows, Digital Research developed an alternative GUI system, called GEM, that was the first to provoke a “look and feel” lawsuit by Apple. GEM did not survive.

In 1985 the Amiga computer was launched with an interface system called Workbench. The system utilized a spinoff metaphor with drawers instead of folders. The interface system employed icon and button animations, bright colors, wallpapers, shadows, etc.

Amiga Workbench

Somebody Open a Window!

Microsoft modeled Windows® 1.0, launched in 1985, after the GUI of the Mac OS (operating system). It worked as a GUI for the MS-DOS operating system which had been the standard for PCs since 1981. It went through its 2.0 version, but it wasn’t until 3.0 was released that it really exploded. Since then, it’s progressed through Windows 95 (“Chicago”), Windows 98, 2000 and XP (“Luna”).

Windows Desktop

Windows 1.0


Windows 3.1

However, in 1988, Apple initiated a copyright infringement lawsuit that lasted four years with no joy. The two companies apparently came to terms with a private settlement in 1997 amid the announcement of investment and cooperation.

Variety Is the Spice of Life

The computer world is filled with many graphical user interfaces for different computer types and purposes, such as OS/2, X Windows, BeOS, etc. Today, in addition to more function and user-friendliness, the look and feel of GUI systems are getting designed down to the pixel and are becoming simply gorgeous.

Apple OSX

Windows XP


Energizer Bunny®

Yes, this spokescritter keeps going and going and going… His name: Energizer Bunny. His friends call him E.B.™ and apparently so do enough of the marketing staff of Energizer Holdings, Inc., for the nickname to merit a trademark symbol. It’s been said that he is also referred to as “Hot Hare,” but too few people were willing to step forward and acknowledge this for further confirmation.

Born to the ad agency Chiat/Day in St. Louis, the flip-flop-wearing stuffed icon marched onto the marketing scene in 1989, and has since been featured in over 100 TV commercials, and over 100 non-Energizer TV appearances, countless printed materials and, of course, merchandise. His very name has come to represent the concept of ceaseless endurance and longevity in the everyday, ad-saturated vocabulary of American speech.

Whether you march to the same beat as this now-teenaged spokescharacter or not, you gotta respect the fact that he really is Still Going.™

Gee Whillickers!

Spiritual Computer Errors

These are a bunch of honest-to-goodness translations of some error messages on Japanese computers. Some are even written in Haiku.

Japanese Alert

! The website you seek cannot be located, but countless more exist.

! Chaos reigns within. Reflect, repent, and reboot. Order shall return.

! Program aborting: Close all that you have worked on. You ask far too much.

! Windows NT crashed. I am the Blue Screen of Death. No one hears your screams.

! Yesterday it worked. Today it is not working. Windows is like that.

! Your file was so big. It might be very useful. But now it is gone.

! Stay the patient course. Of little worth is your ire. The network is down.

! Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

! A crash reduces your expensive computer to a simple stone.

! Three things are certain: Death, taxes and lost data. Guess which has occurred?

! You step in the stream, but the water has moved on. This page is not here.

! Out of memory. We wish to hold the whole sky, but we never will.

! Having been erased, the document you’re seeking must now be retyped.

! Serious error. All shortcuts have disappeared.

Much more amusing than “Error 404 – Page Not Found” or “Alert! Your computer has performed an illegal operation.”