Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 6th Aug 2013 17:55 UTC, submitted by MOS6510
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

In product lore, high profile gadgets that get killed are often more interesting than the ones that succeed. The Kin, the HP TouchPad, and the Edsel are all case studies in failure - albeit for different reasons. Yet in the history of those killings, nothing compared to the Apple Newton MessagePad. The Newton wasn't just killed, it was violently murdered, dragged into a closet by its hair and kicked to death in its youth by one of technology’s great men. And yet it was a remarkable device, one whose influence is still with us today. The Ur tablet. The first computer designed to free us utterly from the desktop.

'First' is debatable, but this was definitely an interesting product. It was far too complex though, and the simpler, more focussed Palm Pilot then showed the market how mobile computing ought to work - something Apple took to heart a decade later with the iPhone.

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RE[4]: Comment by tupp
by Tony Swash on Tue 6th Aug 2013 23:30 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by tupp"
Tony Swash
Member since:
2009-08-22

One Apple invention from the original Mac all the readers of this comment use all the time: regions in your GUI. The Xerox PARC Smalltalk system didn't have self-repairing windows - you had to click in them to get them to repaint, and programs couldn't draw into partially obscured windows. Bill Atkinson did not know this, so he invented regions as the basis of QuickDraw and the Window Manager so that he could quickly draw in covered windows and repaint portions of windows brought to the front. Think about that when you move or size the window you are reading this in on your PC.

That wasn't the only thing Apple created.

Drag-and- drop file manipulation came from the Mac group, along with many other unique concepts: resources and dual-fork files for storing layout and international information apart from code; definition procedures; drag-and-drop system extension and configuration; types and creators for files; direct manipulation editing of document, disk, and application names; redundant typed data for the clipboard; multiple views of the file system; desk accessories; and control panels, among others. The Lisa group invented some fundamental concepts as well: pull down menus, the imaging and windowing models based on QuickDraw and the clipboard.

But ultimately isn't the very premise that this discussion is based upon actually very puerile?

In what other area of human technical and productive activity does such silly discourse take place? Looking at the evolution of car design and production, or metallurgy, it is taken as obvious that on the one hand all important steps forward in technology flow from and are based on what came before, and on the other hand that certain moments are critical in shaping the unfolding of technological and industrial development.

Rather than using words like 'invention', a word that invites pedantry and the obsessive search for the proof or disproof of any claim of innovation, I think it is better to use metaphors drawn from the study of ecological systems, evolution and natural selection. Then one can start using terms like significant mutational events that create a pedigree of change that cascades up the evolutionary tree. Richard Dawkins has a great term, he often discuss what makes a 'good ancestor' and by that he means what speciation event, what mutational event, founded lines of new species which led to large scale and significant new lines of change and evolution.

If one looks at say, the history of the PC and of it's GUI interface, then one can see several great mutational events, each of which connect to each other, the work of Douglas Engelbart, the work at Xerox on Smalltak, the work at Apple on the Lisa and the Macintosh, Microsoft's work on Windows 95, were all critical in creating the world of modern personal computing, each contributed significantly to shaping the modern personal, computer, each took from what came before, added to to it and was in turn the foundation upon which what came after was built.

I know there are those who, for whatever reasons. love to argue that Apple invents nothing (that pernicious word again), that all Apple does is copy or adapt, etc, etc. But it is quite clear that Apple has been associated with a number of mutational events in the history of personal computing technology: the work on the Mac which made coherent a modern GUI and got it into a system that individuals, rather than corporations, could aspire to own and operate, the iPod and iTunes which completely changed the music industry, the iPhone which completely changed the smart phone market and the iPad which completely changed the tablet market and as a consequence is transforming the PC market. It is also clear that when Apple is functioning well and at it's best, which it didn't for quite long periods in it's history, Apple can be the source of significant mutational events. Maybe it will never do that again, but even so it's track record, by the standards of it's peers, is pretty good.

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