Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 30th Aug 2012 09:16 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems Just driving yesterday's point home some more: "The Lilith was one of the first computer workstations worldwide with a high-resolution graphical display and a mouse. The first prototype was developed by Niklaus Wirth and his group between 1978 and 1980 with Richard Ohran as the hardware specialist. [...] The whole system software of the Lilith was written in Modula-2, a structured programming language which Wirth has developed at the same time. The programs were compiled into low-level M-Code instructions which could be executed by the hardware. The user interface was designed with windows, icons and pop-up menus. Compared with the character based systems available at that time, these were revolutionary metaphors in the interaction with a computer." Jos Dreesen, owner of one of the few remaining working Liliths, wrote a Lilith emulator for Linux.
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Comment by Laurence
by Laurence on Thu 30th Aug 2012 12:33 UTC
Laurence
Member since:
2007-03-26

I know it's just down to what you're used to / familiar with, but vertical screen just look weird. Particularly on old CRTs:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Diser_Lilith-IMG...

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by Laurence
by henderson101 on Thu 30th Aug 2012 13:16 UTC in reply to "Comment by Laurence"
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

It looks a little like a sony eVilla :

http://cocktailmarketing.com.mx/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/e-v...

http://www.winsupersite.com/content/content/127159/reviews/P0000659...

No idea why BeOS and Be Inc has to arrive in all things, but apparently it does :-)

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by Laurence
by anevilyak on Thu 30th Aug 2012 13:32 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Laurence"
anevilyak Member since:
2005-09-14

If memory serves, didn't the Xerox Alto have a similar screen orientation?

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by Laurence
by Laurence on Thu 30th Aug 2012 21:41 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Laurence"
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

It did. And (looking retrospectively) that looks weird for it too. As does the Sony's linked above.

It's probably just me being the weird one though ;)

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by Laurence
by bassbeast on Fri 31st Aug 2012 00:22 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by Laurence"
bassbeast Member since:
2007-11-11

The reason they did that back then was the original machines were built for businesses and the vertical layout made it so you could fit an entire paper form onto the screen without scrolling.

As an old greybeard I can tell you a LOT of computing in the late 70s-late 80s was all about filling in forms in the business world and by having the entire form on the screen it was easier for your average worker in government or business to just tab their way through the form filling out the fields.

Of course now our screens are made for television viewing first, computer usage second, so maybe they had the right idea? i know I certainly would have a lot of leftover whitespace if I did everything fullscreen like we did back then.

Reply Score: 3

RE[5]: Comment by Laurence
by Doc Pain on Fri 31st Aug 2012 02:57 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by Laurence"
Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

The reason they did that back then was the original machines were built for businesses and the vertical layout made it so you could fit an entire paper form onto the screen without scrolling.


Correct. A typical "text processing computer" of the 1980's era is the CPT Phoenix. I still have one, even though without the software. It looks like this:

http://www.minotaurz.com/compmuse/museum/pix/CPT1.jpg

The idea of "having more Y than X" is interesting when you see today's 16:9 screens littered with title bars, menu bars, start bars, icon bars, extension bars, selection bars and so on, leaving only a small amount of the program window for actual work, while to the left and the right there is unused space. Some 16:9 screens allow turning them 90° mechanically (while logically it's no problem with e. g. "xrandr --rotate right").

As an old greybeard I can tell you a LOT of computing in the late 70s-late 80s was all about filling in forms in the business world and by having the entire form on the screen it was easier for your average worker in government or business to just tab their way through the form filling out the fields.


While 3270s and 5250s were typically limited to an 80x24 grid, vertical screens allowed to bring a better overview about the whole form at first sight. I think that was a benefit for datatypists. Young people, grab a dictionary and look up "datatypist"! :-)

Of course now our screens are made for television viewing first, computer usage second, so maybe they had the right idea?


It's still possible to buy 4:3 or 16:10 screens, but they are more expensive than the cheap 16:9 screns. I think this is also an economical consideration: When you say, for example, "this is a 21 inch screen", then you have a smaller (in terms of pixels to be "produced") one at 16:9 than at 4:3. So basically, I'd say 16:9 is cheaper. People want cheap, they get cheap. And if advertised as "excellent to watch movies on it", why not?

i know I certainly would have a lot of leftover whitespace if I did everything fullscreen like we did back then.


I suppose you also consider "modern" web pages with fixed width, so they would fit three times in a row... ;-)

Reply Score: 4

RE[5]: Comment by Laurence
by Laurence on Fri 31st Aug 2012 07:54 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by Laurence"
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

Yeah, I figured that might have been the case. You still see some secretaries these days with vertical screens (though it's far from common).

Personally I find horizontal screens better as shorter but wider terminals make scanning through log files easier when fixing broken UNIX boxes. Plus, with Tmux, it's easier enough to divide the Window up if you then need vertical tiling rather than horizontal.

I do think you've hit on an interesting point about how computer usage has evolved and dictated the design of the technology.

Reply Score: 2

And...
by henderson101 on Thu 30th Aug 2012 13:25 UTC
henderson101
Member since:
2006-05-30

... standing by what we discussed yesterday - nice achievement, but it's hardly on a par with what Xerox was doing, and then Apple with the Lisa and Mac. Again, no one said Xerox invented the idea of a user interface, they didn't. I've sat in front of enough BBS and Mainframe's to verify that the UI was alive and well in the early 70's. And don't think of these UI as being just text, they were amazingly graphical in their own ways.

The modern concept of a Graphical User Interface with bitmapped (or vector, or whatever) graphics is the next logical step, but this is a proto-GUI. It is mainly text based. The pointer is there to direct input, but as with the Blit yesterday, it is not a GUI as we define today (windows, xwindows, aqua, whatever), it harks back to the earlier terminals driven by keyboard and NCurses.

Reply Score: 3

RE: And...
by saso on Thu 30th Aug 2012 14:53 UTC in reply to "And..."
saso Member since:
2007-04-18

... standing by what we discussed yesterday - nice achievement, but it's hardly on a par with what Xerox was doing, and then Apple with the Lisa and Mac.

As I understood it, the point of these articles isn't to say that Xerox/Apple did nothing but copy others. It is to show, using clear evidence from the time, that GUIs were a convergent trend across the entire industry and that it was merely a question of months, if not weeks, of when they'd spill on the grand scene. The technology had matured enough, the need was there and skilled developers tend to come up with similar ideas given the same set of problems.

This is to counter Apple fanboy statements that Apple and Steve are the most inventive minds in the whole world of computing. In fact, they simply were a product of their time and general mindshare. Nobody here has a problem with Apple taking credit for the markets they helped build. What we object to is if they subsequently turn around and use underhanded legal tactics to prevent anybody else from following them. We all stand on the shoulders of giants.

Reply Score: 9

RE[2]: And...
by Alfman on Thu 30th Aug 2012 15:55 UTC in reply to "RE: And..."
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

saso,

I agree, common development is inevitable since most of our technology evolves in lockstep. It's pathetic that a player should take credit for the whole enchilada. Being at the forefront should be enough of a reward. It's tough enough for new players to join an oligopoly market, but when bloodthirsty suits are screaming "all your base are belong to us" in court, that discourages competition and innovation.

I think we have become over dependent upon litigation. It should be applied in exceptional cases rather than become routine business. Over a 50 year interval, US population has grown 78%. Over the same interval, the number of lawyers has risen 350%.


http://i.imgur.com/ZuE8n.png

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: And...
by whartung on Thu 30th Aug 2012 17:43 UTC in reply to "RE: And..."
whartung Member since:
2005-07-06


As I understood it, the point of these articles isn't to say that Xerox/Apple did nothing but copy others. It is to show, using clear evidence from the time, that GUIs were a convergent trend across the entire industry and that it was merely a question of months, if not weeks, of when they'd spill on the grand scene. The technology had matured enough, the need was there and skilled developers tend to come up with similar ideas given the same set of problems.


It's also from a time when the IP landscape was quite different, and from a more open culture (academia). Back then, the creators did not have and/or chose not to utilize or enforce the mechanisms of IP protection that are available and mature today (notably design patents, and software patents).

WHETHER YOU AGREE WITH THOSE PROTECTIONS OR NOT, they are available, and Apple et al are leveraging those protections for their designs. Apple, specifically, has obvious experience with seeing it's work taken by others. That experience likely fueled their drive to protect the IP that they feel "make Apple Apple". As Jobs said, and I paraphrase, "We patented the crap out of this." Apple has zero motivation to fuel a market of clones and copycats.

Now much of this is being challenged, and we get to wait and see how much of it sticks.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: And...
by danger_nakamura on Thu 30th Aug 2012 20:58 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: And..."
danger_nakamura Member since:
2011-06-21


WHETHER YOU AGREE WITH THOSE PROTECTIONS OR NOT, they are available, and Apple et al are leveraging those protections for their designs.


And, thankfully, we still live in a world where it is possible for poeple to criticize them for doing so, along with the manner in which they are doing it.

Having a "right" does not mean that enforcing that "right" is the "right" thing to do. It also does not mean that no one may criticize your actions. It ALSO doesn't mean that those criticisms are not valid or correct - they very well may be.

Reply Score: 2

RE: And...
by tupp on Thu 30th Aug 2012 15:19 UTC in reply to "And..."
tupp Member since:
2006-11-12

... standing by what we discussed yesterday - nice achievement, but it's hardly on a par with what Xerox was doing, and then Apple with the Lisa and Mac. Again, no one said Xerox invented the idea of a user interface, they didn't.

The Lilith was just one of many GUIs that came out before any Apple GUI. In the late 1970s and early 1980s computer world, there was considerable excitement about GUIs.

Other players had more sophisticated GUIs, including the Perq (mentioned in the BLIT thread). The Perq had all the elements of a modern GUI, and it first appeared in 1979 -- four years before the first Apple GUI.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: And...
by henderson101 on Thu 30th Aug 2012 22:03 UTC in reply to "RE: And..."
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30


The Lilith was just one of many GUIs that came out before any Apple GUI. In the late 1970s and early 1980s computer world, there was considerable excitement about GUIs.


Which is surely what I said?

Other players had more sophisticated GUIs


Which, again, no one is denying, next?

including the Perq (mentioned in the BLIT thread). The Perq had all the elements of a modern GUI


[Citation needed]

To me, it looks on a par with the early versions of Windows on a monochrome monitor. But, its hard to tell, given the lack of info containing any graphical screenshots that are not blurry.

and it first appeared in 1979 -- four years before the first Apple GUI.


No. Firstly, it as only announced in mid 79. It didn't ship till 1980. Bear in mind, the Lisa was 2 years in to development by that point, and was was released very late. Then compare this "complete" GUI to the Lisa (and Alto/Star) and then tell me, straight faced, you're still serious.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: And...
by tylerdurden on Fri 31st Aug 2012 01:05 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: And..."
tylerdurden Member since:
2009-03-17

You keep making these purely subjective qualitative arguments, passing them as facts, about machines and systems which you have never used, which I find hilarious.

BTW, let me let you in a little "secret": when the project that eventually led to the Lisa was started in 1978, it wasn't a GUI. In fact, Apple did not have any personnel working on GUIs until 1980 at the earliest.

Edited 2012-08-31 01:09 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: And...
by tupp on Fri 31st Aug 2012 05:28 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: And..."
tupp Member since:
2006-11-12

To me, it looks on a par with the early versions of Windows on a monochrome monitor.

Lisa and the original Mac were monochrome.

The Perq could use different GUIs -- PNX, Accent, a native system (apparently), and app-specific GUIs, such as the advanced Intran Metaform GUI: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fap-mXY80ls


But, its hard to tell, given the lack of info containing any graphical screenshots that are not blurry.

There are a lot of Perq screenshots and videos. I already linked one video in a recent thread. A web search should reveal much.


and it first appeared in 1979 -- four years before the first Apple GUI.

No. Firstly, it as only announced in mid 79. It didn't ship till 1980.

Negatory.

It was definitely being shown at sales demos and trade shows in 1979, with an 8-page brochure (and Three Rivers was taking orders in late 1979 -- not that sales matter to the existence of a device).

And don't forget: the Perq was shipping in 1980 -- three years before the first Apple GUI shipped!


Bear in mind, the Lisa was 2 years in to development by that point, and was was released very late.

There is no reason to doubt that the Perq (and its GUIs) were in development before the Lisa was in development.

By the way, the Three Rivers company was founded in 1974, two years before Apple existed.


Then compare this "complete" GUI to the Lisa (and Alto/Star) and then tell me, straight faced, you're still serious.

Definitely serious.

The Perq/Accent GUI had icons/folders, overlapping windows, etc. The Perq/Metaform GUI added even more, such as drop-down menus and scroll bars. By the way, both of these GUIs existed prior to the Apple Lisa. However, the Xerox Star probably preceded the Metaform additions (Metaform also worked on the Star).

Of course, the Xerox Star also preceded the first Apple GUI by two years.

Reply Score: 4

Cool Stuff
by Alfman on Thu 30th Aug 2012 14:12 UTC
Alfman
Member since:
2011-01-28

I don't know why old technology is so cool, whether it's oil wells, farming equipment, aviation, robotics or computers, it's just neat to watch how it all worked.

The industrial technology of the past was totally user serviceable and could probably be built at home given sufficient craftsman skills. That can't really be said about today's specialised technology built in multi-million/billion dollar fabrication facilities.


I'm impressed with that whole era, shows that innovation did happen before the damn lawyers got involved. Mark my words, lawsuits are going to be the downfall of this country (US).

Reply Score: 8

Demo of Lilith on Youtube
by cogumbreiro on Thu 30th Aug 2012 15:41 UTC
cogumbreiro
Member since:
2005-06-30
v What this reminds me of
by Tony Swash on Thu 30th Aug 2012 18:02 UTC
RE: What this reminds me of
by ferrels on Thu 30th Aug 2012 18:28 UTC in reply to "What this reminds me of"
ferrels Member since:
2006-08-15

The only dent around here is the one in your head. Some of us were actually around when all this ground breaking GUI development was occurring and history was being made (yeah, I'm old). These projects went on to influence a number of operating systems out there including the Amiga, Mac and Windows. Steve Jobs and Apple stole every good idea they ever had. They were just very clever at marketing. Sounds like you're just another Steve Jobs fan-boy who has drank too much of his own Kool-Aid. I bet you also believe that Al Gore invented the internet!

Reply Score: 7

RE: What this reminds me of
by flypig on Thu 30th Aug 2012 18:29 UTC in reply to "What this reminds me of"
flypig Member since:
2005-07-13

It's possible I'm misinterpreting your post, but it seems sad to me that the vast contribution that so many people have made to the sum of human knowledge can be brushed aside so casually.

Development comes from many places, and it's not just the success stories that shape the future (even if they're more likely to shape the history books). There are lots of different types of dents that can be made.

Your analogy with birds relies on the asumption there was no interbreeding. Can you be sure that there was no shared knowledge that seeped between all of these systems?

Apologies if I have misunderstood your point.

Reply Score: 4

v RE[2]: What this reminds me of
by Tony Swash on Thu 30th Aug 2012 19:12 UTC in reply to "RE: What this reminds me of"
RE[3]: What this reminds me of
by Thom_Holwerda on Thu 30th Aug 2012 19:27 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: What this reminds me of"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

There seems to be a desperate obsession by many commentators here, often including Thom I have to say, who to try to pretend that Apple's contribution to the development of the development of the PC, the smart phone, the tablet computer are all relatively insignificant


The crux of why your posts are often downright absurd: I never claimed anything like this ever. This is a huge strawman, and everything else you write hinges around this false assumption.

Here's the introduction to my article on the iPhone turning five:

Exactly five years ago today, Apple officially released its entry into the mobile phone market, the iPhone. Immediately loved by customers the world over, ridiculed by the competition, and, in my book, not particularly innovative feature-wise, it changed the mobile phone industry virtually overnight. Love the iPhone or hate the iPhone, its industry-changing impact is evident.


See how that doesn't jive AT ALL with the imagery you conjure up inside your head?

I've told you this before, but you are clearly suffering from a MASSIVE case of cognitive dissonance. You have this image of me and several other commenters in your head of being anti-Apple, and this image is so strong and important to you that any evidence to the contrary causes massive cognitive dissonance in your mind. As such, your brain needs to deal with this - and instead of opting to adjust your world view (the hardest and most physically and emotionally intensive solution) you simply ignore the new evidence.

This is all very classic and basic psychology. Fascinating, but a bit disturbing, to boot.

Edited 2012-08-30 19:30 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE[3]: What this reminds me of
by flypig on Thu 30th Aug 2012 19:58 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: What this reminds me of"
flypig Member since:
2005-07-13

"It's possible I'm misinterpreting your post, but it seems sad to me that the vast contribution that so many people have made to the sum of human knowledge can be brushed aside so casually.


I think you may be responding to a point I was not making. I was critiquing the Apple haters and iPhobes.
"

Fair enough; I certainly don't want to misrepresent what you were saying.

However, in attacking the "Apple haters and iPhobes" I think it's really important not to belittle the contribution that others have played in the development of technology.

This stands on its own, but additional to this is that ignoring others unnecessarily fuels the argument against. Apple have made genuine and important contributions, so there should be no need for the similarly valid contributions of others to be underplayed in order for Apple's importance to be made clear.

I'm sorry if this wasn't what you intended, and for misreading your post.

Separate to this is the fact that the article about the Lilith and earlier article on multi-touch were absolutely fascinating in my view, so I'm glad they were posted.

Reply Score: 3

RE: What this reminds me of
by Megol on Thu 30th Aug 2012 18:35 UTC in reply to "What this reminds me of"
Megol Member since:
2011-04-11

Apple wasn't the only company being inspired by earlier GUI projects. The time was right as memory costs sunk to a level making bitmap graphics possible and processor power increased enough to make redraws reasonably fast. The basic idea for the GUI existed in the 50ies.

Implying that Apple did something technically unique is just plain ignorance. If Apple didn't do a home computer GUI then one of the other companies developing GUIs in parallel with Apple would be known as "the first".

Reply Score: 4

RE: What this reminds me of
by Alfman on Thu 30th Aug 2012 19:15 UTC in reply to "What this reminds me of"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

Tony Swash,


"It's time to let go. Nobody copied the Blit and the Lilith because they were obscure and unsuccessful back room experiments."

How would you know? Are you suggesting that Jobs & co were clueless about their competition? Not only do I think that most likely he did have a clue, but Jobs even admitted to copying others.

If Apple's current lawyers were working for Blit or Lilith back then, then Apple would have been sued for violation of basic GUI concepts. Apple would have had to pay competitors for copying ideas. That's if the inventors want to license them at all, but they could have blocked apple's products all together from the market. There is no exception in patent law for co-development or inadvertent infringement, therefore the guts of your post are invalid in the eyes of the law.

If you believe that apple SHOULD be allowed to compete without regards to what was done before them, well I can agree. However don't be a hypocrite and defend their actions today now that their corporate fortunes have changed. Had apple's behaviour today been practiced in the past, apple would have never been viable in the first place. Is that something you can stand behind?


They are just a company Tony, they have faults like everyone else, it's really time to let go of this innocence nonsense.

Reply Score: 5

RE: What this reminds me of
by M.Onty on Thu 30th Aug 2012 19:55 UTC in reply to "What this reminds me of"
M.Onty Member since:
2009-10-23

Perhaps its because he uses emotive language rather than strictly journalistic language, but you miss Thom's point again and again.

He's saying this (correct me if I'm wrong Thom);

Apple produce industry changing products. This he approves of. Then they adopt aggressive litigation strategies to protect their early advantage. This he disapproves of. These recent articles showing alternative GUIs are his way of illustrating that, although Apple tend to get in there early, their innovations are things that would have and have occurred to others independently. Therefore it is not proper for Apple to be granted monopolies on these innovations by the courts.

If you detach yourself from the tone of the articles and accept that Thom holds certain views about the IP system in general (which we do not all agree with) then it is quite clear that he has specific grievences against Apple which does not include regarding them as unimportant.

TL;DR: Apples bird flew first; doesn't mean other birds weren't about to take off themselves.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: What this reminds me of
by Tony Swash on Thu 30th Aug 2012 22:13 UTC in reply to "RE: What this reminds me of"
Tony Swash Member since:
2009-08-22

Apple produce industry changing products. This he approves of. Then they adopt aggressive litigation strategies to protect their early advantage. This he disapproves of.


You make it sound like a pattern. Apple has a forty year history - during how much of those forty decades have Apple been engaged in major IP legal actions? Is the average level of Apple's IP legal actions over those forty years higher than the average level of IP actions by other large similar tech companies?

It's worth bearing in mind that Apple were taken to cleaners on IP by Microsoft back in the 1990s when MS out maneuvered the bozos who were running Apple at the time. That's just business. Apple learnt from the 1990s. That's just good business.


These recent articles showing alternative GUIs are his way of illustrating that, although Apple tend to get in there early, their innovations are things that would have and have occurred to others independently.


So what? The same thing could be claimed about every invention or innovation ever made. Should there be patents or copyright on nothing? Should anything that builds on what went before (i.e. all of human science, technology and culture) be rendered open to free for all copying?

Therefore it is not proper for Apple to be granted monopolies on these innovations by the courts.


Why? Let's take a couple of real world examples. Xerox held some very valuable photocopying patents for a long while. The science and technology used in the photocopying techniques involved had deep roots in the history of science and technology. Are those patents invalid because of that? Similarly Dyson holds patents of technology in his bagless vacuum cleaners, the techniques involved had deep roots in the history of science and technology. Are those patents invalid because of that?

Apple is not seeking a monopoly on anything. It just wants to stop companies like Samsung blatantly copying it's products. Does anybody actually think that Samsung did not copy Apple's products? Does anybody not think that their copying was a deliberate and planned strategy?

Everybody apes success but once the aping becomes systematic copying then it should be stopped. The copying was so systematic and so crass at Samsung that when they copied Apple's retails stores they actually plastered them with Apple specific icons like the Safari one. Allowing that sort and scale of copying to continue would be just plain bonkers. Imagine a car maker starts making cars that look just like BMW cars, their ads ape BMW cars, their cars contain component designs whose patents are held by BMW, their showrooms have BMW logos scattered around. Would anybody be surprised let alone shocked if BMW took them to court?

Reply Score: 1

RE: What this reminds me of
by Vanders on Thu 30th Aug 2012 21:17 UTC in reply to "What this reminds me of"
Vanders Member since:
2005-07-06

It's time to let go. Nobody copied the Blit and the Lilith because they were obscure and unsuccessful back room experiments.


You're not wrong. Just like that other failed experiment, the Xerox Star. Who'd want to copy that waste of space?

Reply Score: 4

RE: What this reminds me of
by tylerdurden on Fri 31st Aug 2012 01:41 UTC in reply to "What this reminds me of"
tylerdurden Member since:
2009-03-17


It's time to let go. Nobody copied the Blit and the Lilith because they were obscure and unsuccessful back room experiments. They influenced no one. They led to nothing. They left no dent in the universe.


So basically, what you're trying to let us know is that you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

Those were 2 very successful research projects BTW. E.g. the Lilith project produced one of the first graphic integrated development environments, and the blit was a fundamental cornerstone in (graphical) distributed computing. Those projects you just belittled, ironically, either facilitated or produced a lot of the technologies which you take now for granted in those apple products you seem to be so emotionally vested.

Yes, apple has made some great contribution and products. But their quality and importance do not depend on belittling other projects and products and their achievements.

Reply Score: 4

RE: What this reminds me of
by StephenBeDoper on Fri 31st Aug 2012 20:05 UTC in reply to "What this reminds me of"
StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

This article is like someone trying to understand the origins of birds. They look at the evidence and see that some fossils have been discovered of a couple of ancient species of bird like creatures that both lived on separate islands millions of years ago around the time that birds first emerged. They seem to have wings, the walked on two legs, they both had primitive beaks and they even had feathers. Both species only ever had minute population sizes however and both species died out and left no descendents and so played no role in the evolution of the many numerous bird species that exist today. Lets call these birds Blit and Lilith.


Analogies that compare the advancement of technology with biological evolution are fundamentally flawed - mainly because technology advances in a way that's completely different from the way biological organisms evolve*. They are similar only the sense that they are both processes of iterative change over time.

At the same time as the two island species were living another species of bird like creatures lived on on the main land mass, this too had wings, walked on two legs, had a primitive beak and had feathers, except this species had a population that was vastly bigger than the other two, this species prospered and is not extinct even today, and this specie left numerous descendents. Let's call this species the Mac OS


First off, let's get one thing clear: computer technologies don't "descend" from earlier technologies, not in the same sense that biological organisms are descended from more basal forms. In biological evolution, "descended from" has a very clear meaning - not so in technology. In technology, the term "descendent" is applied to:

- New technologies that are revised/improved versions of old technologies (E.g. Windows 7 as a descendent of Vista, Vista as a descendent of XP, etc)
- Technologies that share pieces with other technologies, but are built on different foundations (E.g. Windows NT as a descendent of Win9x/3.x)
- Technologies that are completely unrelated from any technical standpoint, but that share a product name (OS X as a descendent of "Classic" MacOS)

Of those, only the first example is in any way analogous to biological evolution - and even that is a fairly loose analogy, at best.

So it needs to be established what we mean by descendent - in this context, what plays the role of the DNA passed from the parents to their offspring? If it's the first version, then the MacOS should be considered an evolutionary dead end too, because it has produced no descendents (see the third example). If instead you mean it in a more abstract/figurative sense, as in "spiritual successor to", then how do you determine that the Lilith and/or Blit DIDN'T produce descendents? An argument could be made that we're completely surrounded by their descendents (modern, graphical OSes).

If the person looking for the origin of birds jumped up and down and kept going on and on about how the Blit and the Litlith were more important, or at least as important, as the MacOS in understanding where birds came from they would look a bit sill. And maybe a bit obsessed.


Coincidentally, I just finished reading Malcom Gladwell's book Outliers, which (in a nutshell) examines the special circumstances that lead to certain people becoming successful - including Bill Joy, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates. I didn't interpret that as an attempt to diminish their accomplishments - but, rather, an attempt to put their accomplishments in the proper context (in order to understand them better).

I interpret Thom's posts on the Blit & the Lilith in the same way - as attempts to put Apple's contribution in proper context, not to diminish it.

The Mac OS on the other hand had an enormous impact not least because Microsoft spent the next ten years building a rough copy of it and then went on to dominate the world's PC markets with that copy


Yes, but the Mac OS didn't coalesce out of nowhere, or leap fully-formed from the brains of Steve Jobs & Wozniak with no external influences (despite often being presented that way). That appears to be the point Thom is trying to get across.


*Amusingly enough, the way that technology advances is much more analogous to "intelligent design" than biological evolution. Of course, I don't think most ID propronents realize the implications - namely, that ID requires a god who is less "supreme being" and more of a cosmic software project manager, putting out beta versions, bug-fixes, etc (Australopithecus == Homo sapien Developer Preview edition?).

Reply Score: 4

Comment by Zaitch
by Zaitch on Thu 30th Aug 2012 19:38 UTC
Zaitch
Member since:
2007-11-23

Just wanted to say, I really enjoyed this link - thanks for posting it - and it is illustrative of why I come to osnews.com almost daily. I remember learning to program in Modula-2 (JPI TopSpeed Modula 2, on 2 x 5.25" disks anyone?) but had no idea to this day Wirth et al did hardware - admittedly I was barely into my teens at the time!

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by Zaitch
by vaette on Thu 30th Aug 2012 20:38 UTC in reply to "Comment by Zaitch"
vaette Member since:
2008-08-09

Yes, I agree, this is good deep-diving into the history of computing that I think is a perfect fit for OSnews. I suspect that Thom is attempting to make some point about innovation in the present day that I don't much care to discuss, but that doesn't change that I didn't know about either Blit or the Lilith, so it is a very educating look at the early days of the GUI.

Now we need a new deep article about NeWS, my favorite GUI system of all time ;)

Reply Score: 2

Reminds me of Oberon
by xastor on Sun 2nd Sep 2012 08:07 UTC
xastor
Member since:
2012-01-12

At university we had a basic programming course which used the Oberon OS, also co-developed by Wirth and co. It was a great environment to get up to speed on programming basics and it looks very similar to Lilith. I think some gui metaphor re-use has been going on there ;)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oberon_(operating_system)

Edited 2012-09-02 08:11 UTC

Reply Score: 1