Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 29th Aug 2012 11:10 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces Sometimes, you wake up in the morning, check your RSS feeds, and you know you just hit the jackpot. From the AT&T archives comes a video and description of Blit, a UNIX graphical user interface from 1982, on a 800x1024 portrait display. It employs a three button mouse, right-click context menus, multiple windows, and lots, lots more. It was developed at Bell Labs, and is yet another case that illustrates how the technology industry doesn't work in a vacuum.
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Lisa
by henderson101 on Wed 29th Aug 2012 11:32 UTC
henderson101
Member since:
2006-05-30

Okay, so the Lisa development began in 1978. This also looks more like Windows 2.0 than a modern GUI, as seen with the products from those companies that you choose to discredit.

Nice find though.

Edit: it's also worth noting, this is just a terminal. It's not on the same level as the Xerox machines - they were independent work stations. This is more like a dumb X terminal. Not to belittle the achievement. But from what I can tell, you needed a mainframe in a server room to make the terminal do anything useful.

Edited 2012-08-29 11:36 UTC

Reply Score: 0

RE: Lisa
by vaette on Wed 29th Aug 2012 11:47 UTC in reply to "Lisa"
vaette Member since:
2008-08-09

The video states that is has a 68000 processor and 256 kilobytes of RAM, that is hardly dumb terminal hardware (same processor as the original Mac an twice the RAM, two years before the Mac was released). The question is how it is driven, but if applications on the mainframe can upload fairly general programs to the terminal to run and communicate with now and then it is very much a hybrid system.

Edited 2012-08-29 11:48 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Lisa
by henderson101 on Wed 29th Aug 2012 13:52 UTC in reply to "RE: Lisa"
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

And? What do you think generates the bitmapped graphics? All terminals require some kind of processor, they don't just work by magic. Indeed, a lot of the Citrix/Win Terminals you see these days are ARM based. The processor runs the basic protocol drivers for inpur, comms and UI, the clever stuff is done on the mainframe.

Reply Score: 0

RE[3]: Lisa
by vaette on Wed 29th Aug 2012 15:27 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Lisa"
vaette Member since:
2008-08-09

Dumb terminals are defined by not having programmatic capabilities, it is likely that this terminal does given its advanced hardware.

Reply Score: 3

programs on the Blit
by andybalholm on Wed 29th Aug 2012 15:40 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Lisa"
andybalholm Member since:
2012-08-29

Yes, the Blit had the ability to download programs from the main computer. For example, Rob Pike's text editor, sam, could download its GUI portion onto the terminal; then the only communication needed was the text being edited, instead of the pixels to render to the screen. This sort of thing was what made the terminal usable on a 1200 baud modem.

Reply Score: 3

RE: programs on the Blit
by henderson101 on Wed 29th Aug 2012 15:47 UTC in reply to "programs on the Blit"
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

Cool... so it really is the original graphical "thin client".

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Lisa
by henderson101 on Wed 29th Aug 2012 15:46 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Lisa"
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

What advanced hardware? It has 500KB of RAM and a 68000 processor. It would need that kind of power to generate the bitmapped graphics. Look at your average Citrix/Terminal services hardware client, aka "thin client":

http://www.igel.com/uk/products/hardware/ud2-lx-multimedia.html

So this one, I randomly picked from a google search, has a Cortex A8 1Ghz processor and 1GB RAM. All it does (pretty much) is connect to a Terminal server/Citrix farm or VMWare virtual server and serve a remote desktop. It has an embedded Linux OS, but all that does is provide the interface to choose/log on to the provided clients and then run the client full screen.

When they say "terminal" they mean "terminal" in the true sense of the word. Just because it has a graphical UI doesn't make it any less the grandaddy of thin clients.

Reply Score: 0

RE[5]: Lisa
by saso on Wed 29th Aug 2012 19:02 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Lisa"
saso Member since:
2007-04-18

Dude, you're comparing apples to oranges here. This is 1982 we're talking about. A 68k and 256k of memory was pretty huge back then, as vaette noted, same CPU and twice the memory as the Mac that was released a year later. It's like saying a PC with a Core i5 and 16GB of memory is a low-spec dumb terminal by today's standards.

That being said, whether something is a dumb terminal or not depends mostly on the ability to run application software on the machine itself, not by the grunt in its hardware.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Lisa
by Thom_Holwerda on Wed 29th Aug 2012 11:59 UTC in reply to "Lisa"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

There's not a single bit of discrediting going on here. I'm only trying to make clear how this industry works: independent groups of people working within the same constraints coming to the same conclusions, building upon one another, as opposed to how some people think - namely, that companies work in isolation, coming up with everything all on their own.

It seems like to me the only person discrediting anybody's work is you with your comment, trying to downplay Blit to make other products appear more advanced.

Edited 2012-08-29 12:00 UTC

Reply Score: 9

RE[2]: Lisa
by henderson101 on Wed 29th Aug 2012 13:56 UTC in reply to "RE: Lisa"
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

Well no Thom. No discredit here. The product was in development in 1982, but look at when the final product was released.. 1984. So no need to argue. As I said, the Lisa was in development in 1978. You're very righ... in the late 70's there was a lot of buzz about GUI.

Again, this is a fine achievement, but it's no Xerox Alto. It very much reminds me of screen shots I've seen of Plan 9, though I think that window manager tiles.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Lisa
by tupp on Thu 30th Aug 2012 04:17 UTC in reply to "Lisa"
tupp Member since:
2006-11-12

Okay, so the Lisa development began in 1978.

No reason to assume that Lisa development began before that of BLIT.


This also looks more like Windows 2.0 than a modern GUI,...

If so, it was well ahead of it's time.


it's also worth noting, this is just a terminal.

Not really. It is more much more significant is that this is yet another early GUI. It further establishes the fact that there were a lot of pre-Apple GUIs.

Reply Score: 3

Comment by MOS6510
by MOS6510 on Wed 29th Aug 2012 11:45 UTC
MOS6510
Member since:
2011-05-12

I used to have a terminal at home, just a plain text one. It could dial in using a 2400 baud modem to my employer.

I only did it a few times just for fun, because we used Solaris and for some strange reason the keyboard didn't have a | key, which rather sucks if you use an UNIX system.

Reply Score: 2

v Is it me?
by Windows Sucks on Wed 29th Aug 2012 12:12 UTC
RE: Is it me?
by Thom_Holwerda on Wed 29th Aug 2012 12:16 UTC in reply to "Is it me? "
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Considering there's not a single negative mention of Apple in this article, your comment is a bit off-topic.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Is it me?
by Windows Sucks on Wed 29th Aug 2012 12:59 UTC in reply to "RE: Is it me? "
Windows Sucks Member since:
2005-11-10

Considering there's not a single negative mention of Apple in this article, your comment is a bit off-topic.


"It also shows that, unlike what some want you to believe, it wasn't just one company that saw the value in bringing the graphical user interface to the masses"

"You wouldn't believe it from reading about entitled corporations competing in courtrooms, but it almost seems like this is how the technology industry has always worked."

I mean the only company I hear you talking about in these terms is Apple. I guess I am just seeing fire from smoke? Good article and interesting besides the sly bashing.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Is it me?
by Thom_Holwerda on Wed 29th Aug 2012 13:05 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Is it me? "
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

So, stating simple facts is now considered bashing.

Okidoki.

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: Is it me?
by MOS6510 on Wed 29th Aug 2012 13:09 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Is it me? "
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

If you use Linux you probably bash too.

Reply Score: 7

RE[4]: Is it me?
by Windows Sucks on Wed 29th Aug 2012 13:28 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Is it me? "
Windows Sucks Member since:
2005-11-10

So, stating simple facts is now considered bashing.

Okidoki.


If it is fact (Which remains in dispute) it doesn't need to be salted into every article posted. (Not every but you get my drift)

Things like this can stand alone. Like I said great and informative article otherwise.

Reply Score: 0

RE[5]: Is it me?
by dylansmrjones on Wed 29th Aug 2012 22:56 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Is it me? "
dylansmrjones Member since:
2005-10-02

(Not every but you get my drift)


I sure do; and it smells.

Reply Score: 1

RE[6]: Is it me?
by Windows Sucks on Wed 29th Aug 2012 23:00 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Is it me? "
Windows Sucks Member since:
2005-11-10

[q]I sure do; and it smells.


Like the truth.

Reply Score: 0

RE[2]: Is it me?
by bitwelder on Thu 30th Aug 2012 07:20 UTC in reply to "RE: Is it me? "
bitwelder Member since:
2010-04-27

There is a typo in the hyperlink to 'some' (that should lead to Wikipedia page of McIntosh).
[just_kidding]
I'm sure you did it on purpose!
[/just_kidding]

Very interesting article, thanks Thom.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Is it me?
by MOS6510 on Wed 29th Aug 2012 12:20 UTC in reply to "Is it me? "
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

Just ignore the last bit of the article, enjoy the rest + video and you'll be fine.

Even if it's just a terminal, it's a rather nifty one and having GUI access to a multitasking operating system was pretty cool at that time.

Many years later the first generation of Linux users didn't do much more than run a few terminal windows in an X session either.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Is it me?
by Laurence on Wed 29th Aug 2012 12:50 UTC in reply to "RE: Is it me? "
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

Many years later the first generation of Linux users didn't do much more than run a few terminal windows in an X session either.


Given GNU/Linux was pretty much a complete rewrite from the ground up, it's not all that surprising.

Reply Score: 5

RE[3]: Is it me?
by MOS6510 on Wed 29th Aug 2012 12:55 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Is it me? "
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

There are people who around who still do this.

Mutt is a very powerful console email client for example, it's very easy to have it running in a console window while doing other CLI stuff.

On the first Mac I used I only ran only some terminal program and the 30 day Netscape version.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Is it me?
by Laurence on Wed 29th Aug 2012 22:13 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Is it me? "
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

There are people who around who still do this.

Mutt is a very powerful console email client for example, it's very easy to have it running in a console window while doing other CLI stuff.

On the first Mac I used I only ran only some terminal program and the 30 day Netscape version.

Oh sorry, you meant out of choice. I thought you were making a swipe at Linux development.

Yeah, I basically run X just to run multiple terminals (though I typically use tmux terminal multiplexer with tiled sessions - so technically that's only one terminal emulator). I'm not a great example of a typical desktop Linux user though, given I'm UNIX administrator by trade.

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Is it me?
by MOS6510 on Thu 30th Aug 2012 05:10 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Is it me? "
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

I used to have a number of terminal windows open until a guru noticed that and told me the secret of "screen".

This was great, now I only had one terminal in which I had 9 or so "screens", detach my session, go home, reattach.

http://www.rackaid.com/resources/linux-screen-tutorial-and-how-to/

Reply Score: 3

RE[6]: Is it me?
by Laurence on Thu 30th Aug 2012 07:46 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Is it me? "
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

I used to have a number of terminal windows open until a guru noticed that and told me the secret of "screen".

This was great, now I only had one terminal in which I had 9 or so "screens", detach my session, go home, reattach.

http://www.rackaid.com/resources/linux-screen-tutorial-and-how-to/

Yeah, I know how to use screen. Like I said, I use Tmux - which is based upon screen's code but developed into something much more advanced. ;)

Edited 2012-08-30 07:48 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[7]: Is it me?
by MOS6510 on Thu 30th Aug 2012 07:49 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Is it me? "
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

How long have you known this and why did you never bother to tell us???

Reply Score: 2

RE: Is it me?
by Netfun81 on Sat 1st Sep 2012 21:49 UTC in reply to "Is it me? "
Netfun81 Member since:
2008-03-25

its not you.. the bashing is obvious, especially in the phone area. Most have never owned an apple product but they just KNOW the junk they bought is superior, just ignore the malware and random freezing. I used to be like them avoiding and bashing apple. After using apple products I can appreciate a quality stable design.

Feel free to vote me down now :}

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Is it me?
by Neolander on Sun 2nd Sep 2012 16:18 UTC in reply to "RE: Is it me? "
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Because you used to bash Apple without having taken a deep look at their products first, does not mean that everyone else does so...

The reason I say this is that I have met more than one Apple fan who cannot grasp the concept that even after using the company's products, I can still prefer alternatives for their respective strengths.

Not idiots, even, they are all pretty very smart persons, that are very competent in their respective areas of expertise. It's only when it comes to computer-related discussions that they start to exhibit this weird religious faith that if you don't like Apple products, you must not have used them yet, period.

It's a bit like LaTeX advocates, only worse.

Edited 2012-09-02 16:23 UTC

Reply Score: 1

Truly fascinating
by mantrik00 on Wed 29th Aug 2012 13:53 UTC
mantrik00
Member since:
2011-07-06

Great work Thom. Keep unearthing such early works in the computing industry. Despite all the muscle of the myth making machines of some corporations, the truth must ultimately prevail.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Truly fascinating
by henderson101 on Wed 29th Aug 2012 13:59 UTC in reply to "Truly fascinating"
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

He didn't exactly unearth this... given it was an article on the Verge and it was on the Verge's RSS feed. I saw it there first too.

Reply Score: 1

Chocolate Rain Credits
by runjorel on Wed 29th Aug 2012 14:46 UTC
runjorel
Member since:
2009-02-09

Aside from the technology vaccuum, I think there is also a musical vacuum. I am pretty sure the music during the end credits of this film were the basis for Chocolate Rain (youtube it if you don't know).

Reply Score: 1

v Comment by kovacm
by kovacm on Wed 29th Aug 2012 15:46 UTC
RE: Comment by kovacm
by henderson101 on Wed 29th Aug 2012 15:52 UTC in reply to "Comment by kovacm"
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30


NeXT rediscover UNIX in 1988.


I'm confused as to whether that (above) is a "bad thing". But if it is, let me throw you a curve ball: both iOS and Mac OS X are based on the original NeXTSTeP OS and therefore... based on UNIX.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by kovacm
by Soulbender on Wed 29th Aug 2012 16:07 UTC in reply to "Comment by kovacm"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

Point is that: "most *polished* products remain on market"


Well, that explains why Linux is still in the market then.

Reply Score: 7

RE: Comment by kovacm
by saso on Wed 29th Aug 2012 19:08 UTC in reply to "Comment by kovacm"
saso Member since:
2007-04-18

NeXT rediscover UNIX in 1988.

Mac OS X and iOS basically *are* NeXTStep. Aparently you weren't aware of this...

Microsoft rediscover VMS in 1993.

And much of VMS architecture has found its way into the NT kernel, which powers every single Windows PC machine on the market today.

this becoming hilarious ...

Especially coming from someone who doesn't even take care to check his facts.

Reply Score: 3

v RE[2]: Comment by kovacm
by kovacm on Thu 30th Aug 2012 05:41 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by kovacm"
RE[3]: Comment by kovacm
by oper on Thu 30th Aug 2012 09:58 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kovacm"
oper Member since:
2012-08-30

Thom trying to say: "look, there was work on GUI before Mac" of course there was.

Knowing that there is a huge number of people that don't think so, maybe it's not a bad idea to tell it in the articles :-(

Reply Score: 1

ronaldst
Member since:
2005-06-29

It was good enough for Pike back in the day.

*hugs his Honeywell opto-mechanical 3 button mouse*

Reply Score: 4

I might be wrong...
by thavith_osn on Wed 29th Aug 2012 23:25 UTC
thavith_osn
Member since:
2005-07-11

...but I think a few people here have misunderstood what Thom intended with this article (so maybe it's me that has misunderstood)

Bascially we have a machine that is not a PC, but a terminal, so noone is about to go home with one, but that's not the point.

However, the ideas behind the terminal are very similar to what the Lisa and then Mac teams came up with at Apple (yes, I'll mention the company that dares not say it's name).

Apple and Bell had obviously both seen what Xerox was doing (and I am sure other companies too) and they worked in parallel with each other coming up with similar ideas.

Personally, I love the name Layers to Windows (maybe MS has dirtied the word).
I also love the idea behind the mouse, having each button used for local, global or pointing.

I wonder how many other projects like this will be unearthed in the coming years, surly these aren't the only two that saw what Xerox was doing? I don't count MS, sorry (they had a more indirect link to Xerox)

Reply Score: 3

RE: I might be wrong...
by tylerdurden on Thu 30th Aug 2012 00:51 UTC in reply to "I might be wrong..."
tylerdurden Member since:
2009-03-17

Some in this thread are comparing apples to oranges, almost literally ;-). This was an exercise in network transparency, multiprogramming and multiuser operation, using a GUI. The point of this project was not "just to create a GUI."

There is also the misconception that PARC was the sole originator of the concepts behind graphical user interfaces. In reality other companies and project had already been there and done that by the late 70s not just Xerox. The "mouse," for example, predates PARC. The tragedy for Xerox is that they had the majority of the key components that would define computing and office automation in the 80s and 90s (GUI, local area networks, and several key programming paradigms) ready in-house by the late 70s.

The GUI was inevitable by the early 80s, with or without the mac or Lisa.

Edited 2012-08-30 01:00 UTC

Reply Score: 3

Back in the 90s ...
by Sabon on Wed 29th Aug 2012 23:29 UTC
Sabon
Member since:
2005-07-06

Back in the '90s I worked at a bank and we had a few graphics monitors for our mainframe. I made a pseudo Windows 3.1 OS on the "dumb terminal". I say pseudo OS because it wasn't an OS at all but a simple program that looked like W3.1 and I could click on one and then another window and have the focus change between them. I also set it so that if I clicked on File -> Open and then a file name from a list (only one worked) text would appear in the window and made it appear that it wa an editor.

The reason for this was to prove to someone that you could make any computer, even a mainframe, look like Windows 3.1 or any other OS if you wanted to. It was just a matter of taking the time to program it. Obviously a BIG job for lots of people to do this. But anything can be done if someone puts their mind to it.

PS: Yes they did think I had ported Windows 3.1 to the mainframe. They even went around telling people I had done this. Of course all the programmers in our group knew that I didn't have the time or resources for this and that I had done this only to fool this one person.

Reply Score: 2

Just a reminder
by Sabon on Wed 29th Aug 2012 23:34 UTC
Sabon
Member since:
2005-07-06

First I want to say I'm not one of the people that think that only one company comes up with ideas that are similar.

People do think that Apple stole IP from Xerox PARC. The truth is that Xerox was asked by Apple if it was OK with them. They made a deal where Xerox got Apple shares in exchange for Apple using as much IP as they wanted.

Note that a few years later Xerox sold that stock for over $16 million. Keep in mind that this was in the mid '80s when $16 million meant something to companies.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Just a reminder
by tupp on Thu 30th Aug 2012 04:35 UTC in reply to "Just a reminder"
tupp Member since:
2006-11-12

Nevertheless, Apple did not originate the GUI, and several companies (not including Xerox) were developing GUIs prior to Apple.

The only items that Apple truly contributed to the GUI is the trashcan, and, perhaps, Expose' and just the bounce-back moment of bounce-back scrolling. Note that all of these Apple items are decidedly optional.

Reply Score: 4

Perq -- Jerq
by tupp on Thu 30th Aug 2012 04:51 UTC
tupp
Member since:
2006-11-12

There were also other pre-Apple GUI players, other than Xerox. As I recall, there was significant excitement about GUIs in computer magazines, before 1983.

Most notable in regards to the BLIT is the Three Rivers Perq. The Perq first appeared (and was marketed) in 1979. Of course, its development began long before it was released. Here is a video about the Perq from 1982: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOD4T442X6I

In light of the Perq, it is interesting that the later Blit was originally called the "Jerq."

Reply Score: 3

RE: Perq -- Jerq
by smashIt on Thu 30th Aug 2012 09:54 UTC in reply to "Perq -- Jerq"
smashIt Member since:
2005-07-06

Here is a video about the Perq from 1982: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOD4T442X6I


there are even overlaping windows after 4:13 ;)

Edited 2012-08-30 09:55 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: Perq -- Jerq
by flypig on Fri 31st Aug 2012 08:33 UTC in reply to "Perq -- Jerq"
flypig Member since:
2005-07-13

Thanks for the link to the video, which is fascinating, not just because of how early it was, but also the fact it was created by two final-year students who had "been working on this for a couple of months". That's pretty impressive.

The quote at the end is just great: "By the way, isn't it somewhat interesting to think that these guys, these students who have made the program shown here, when they started computing education four years ago, the freshmen course in computing was a punchcard based-course in Forth."

Reply Score: 3

Thanks Thom
by ferrels on Thu 30th Aug 2012 18:16 UTC
ferrels
Member since:
2006-08-15

I am so tired of hearing how Steve Jobs single-handedly invented the personal computer AND the first GUI that I could scream. Steve Jobs stole every idea that he ever had. He was just a slick talking salesman. Thanks Thom for another piece that will educate the bleating mass of sheep out there who are part of the Steve Jobs personality cult. And BTW, Al Gore did not invent the internet!

Reply Score: 4

RE: Thanks Thom
by Netfun81 on Sat 1st Sep 2012 22:10 UTC in reply to "Thanks Thom"
Netfun81 Member since:
2008-03-25

I really wanted an apple II back in the day, but had to settle for a commodore vic20 then 64. Apple pretty much did create the personal computer market. Yes, Steve Jobs was a Sales guy, however he knew something big when he saw it and helped push the market. The IBM PC couldn't do near what you could on an apple. The PC just took over due to a more open hw platform, but it took about a decade to be at a same level.

Reply Score: 1