Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 6th Jul 2007 20:01 UTC, submitted by Oliver
Apple 10ZenMonkeys has interviewed Steve Wozniak. When asked about Bill Gates, he replied: "I've only spoken with him briefly a couple of times. I admire him, he admires me. Good lord, I'd never written a computer language when he had written a BASIC in the early days of hobby computers. And I thought, 'Oh my gosh - a computer with BASIC finally makes a computer that people can use for things'."
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google_ninja
Member since:
2006-02-05

Here is a photo of the Xerox Alto which first appeared in 1973: http://toastytech.com/guis/altosystem.jpg
It sure looks like a PC to me. Maybe the box is a little bigger than typical, and the price might have been prohibitive. However, in light of the 1973 Alto, how can anyone maintain that Steve Wozniak/Jobs was the "inventor" of the computer that has a monitor, a keyboard and a box that sits under/on-top-of a desk?


They weren't, such computers existed long before as soldering kits. What they did is made a product that was usable for the average joe, and got the general public using something that didnt exist out of big business and universities.

In addition, the 1973 Alto used a GUI! -- Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak didn't offer a GUI until ten years later. And, incidentally, the Alto GUI had icons, a three-button mouse, floating, hierarchal menus (that were identical to drop-down menus except for their screen position), etc. Here are a couple of screenshots:


It is often implied that apple ripped off Xerox, they didn't. They liscenced the ideas after being shown some of the prototype stuff xerox was working on at the time.

And comparing the alto to the mac os is apples and oranges. It was the work of one of the fathers of Usability, Jeff Raskin, and later the Tog (Bruce Tognazini) that made the UI such a joy to use. They did not invent the desktop metaphor, but they did invent the billion and one features that set Mac OS apart from it.

As for the three button mouse, Jeff explained why he went one button in The Humane Interface. Back then, the mouse was a foreign interface that noone knew how to use. The Alto had two buttons, one for select, the other to activate. Jeff figured that introducing such a radical new way of interfacing with the computer was going to take alot of adjustment for people anyways, and wanted to simply the device so that it could be more easily manipulated. Thus, select became single click, activate became double click.

Looking back, he says that it was a mistake. First off, double clicks probably made the mouse more difficult to use the two buttons would have. He says his main problem with two buttons was people getting mixed up with which did what, but now he would have just labeled them. Sure, the label would have worn off, but by the time it did the user would be proficient.

There are reasons behind the changes, it wasnt an intentional step backwards. And there were plenty of things in the design that was flat out crazy. Like device drivers for the disk drive, or intentionally using artifacts in the display to reduce the required size of the framebuffer for the amount of colors shown.

Reply Parent Score: 1

tupp Member since:
2006-11-12

They weren't, such computers existed long before as soldering kits. What they did is made a product that was usable for the average joe, and got the general public using something that didnt exist out of big business and universities.

Okay. So we agree that neither Steve Jobs nor Steve Wozniak invented the personal computer.

However, we seem to disagree on the form in which earlier personal computers were offered. Undoubtedly, there were "Heathkit-like" sets around in 1975, but I am pretty sure that the Alto of 1973 was not offered as a "soldering kit." Also, the 1973 Alto had a GUI, so it was designed to be used by the "average Joe."

By the way, here is an early Heathkit computer: http://www.heathkit-museum.com/computers/hvmec-1.shtml


It is often implied that apple ripped off Xerox, they didn't. They liscenced the ideas after being shown some of the prototype stuff xerox was working on at the time.

In regards to my original point, Xerox developed the GUI long before Apple, and, thus, Xerox should get credit in the eyes of the world. It is another matter as to whether Apple licensed the GUI or ripped it off.


And comparing the alto to the mac os is apples and oranges. It was the work of one of the fathers of Usability, Jeff Raskin, and later the Tog (Bruce Tognazini) that made the UI such a joy to use. They did not invent the desktop metaphor, but they did invent the billion and one features that set Mac OS apart from it.

These assertions are subjective.

In regards to usabiltiy and operation, I see very few significant developments in computer GUIs since the early 1980s (pre-Lisa and pre-Mac).

Jef Raskin's usability contributions involved only computer GUIs, so I would not call him one of the "fathers of usability." Likewise, with Bruce Tognazini, although I don't recall anything particularly important coming from him. A better candidate for such a general usability title would be someone like Donald Norman.

Please be more specific as to what Raskin and/or Tognazini did "that made the GUI such a joy to use," and please be more specific about a few of "the billion and one features that set Mac OS apart from" the "desktop metaphor."

I can think of several usability problems with Apple software and hardware.


As for the three button mouse, Jeff explained why he went one button in The Humane Interface. Back then, the mouse was a foreign interface that noone knew how to use. The Alto had two buttons, one for select, the other to activate. Jeff figured that introducing such a radical new way of interfacing with the computer was going to take alot of adjustment for people anyways, and wanted to simply the device so that it could be more easily manipulated. Thus, select became single click, activate became double click.

This is just one in long line of examples of Apple making bad design decisions, because they think they know what is best for the end user. They over-think things to the detriment of the user. A good designer field tests for usability before making design commitments. Of course, a mouse with two or three buttons is better than a one-button mouse, as many Mac users are just now learning.

And, by the way, the mouse was not a “radical new way of interfacing” -- it was invented at least 15 years earlier in 1963 by Dr. Doug Englebart: http://www.afrlhorizons.com/Briefs/Mar02/OSR0103.htm

In addition, the Alto mouse had three buttons, not two: http://www.netclique.net/oldmouse/mouse/xerox/alto.shtml


He says his main problem with two buttons was people getting mixed up with which did what, but now he would have just labeled them. Sure, the label would have worn off, but by the time it did the user would be proficient.

A “father of usability” would use a label on mouse buttons?


There are reasons behind the changes, it wasnt an intentional step backwards. And there were plenty of things in the design that was flat out crazy. Like device drivers for the disk drive, or intentionally using artifacts in the display to reduce the required size of the framebuffer for the amount of colors shown.

I do not understand to what you are referring.

Edited 2007-07-08 21:14

Reply Parent Score: 2

FAC73 Member since:
2007-07-09

Steve Wozniak certainly didnt invent the PC as a concept. Miniaturization had been going on for a number of years with the transistor and the silicon chip, so it was only a matter of time before someone would produce a computer that could sit on a desk, however I do give credit to Woz for his technical ability. The Apple II was one of the first home computers that a regular person could buy and use without needing to solder on their own keyboard and transformer (I also thought it was the first colour PC as well, though I might be wrong on that).

The Xerox Alto was a revolutionary machine, and something of a landmark in computing, however it was never for sale to the general public, and there was only a limited number made (something like 50), so I dont think it can be classed as a PC as such, even though it has many properties of a modern PC.

From what I understand, the parts alone cost something like $25,000, and the gui wasn't complete. Some of it was "proof of concept" and a number of the applications were still launched by the command line.

Reply Parent Score: 1