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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What this reminds me of
by Tony Swash on Thu 30th Aug 2012 18:02 UTC
Tony Swash
Member since:
2009-08-22

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 descendants and so played no role in the evolution of the many numerous bird species that exist today. Lets call these birds Blit and Lilith.

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 descendants. Let's call this species the Mac OS

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.

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.

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 (and if anybody wants to quibble about the use of the word 'copy' just read the insider accounts by the people from Microsoft - Marlin Eller's a good place to start).

This is a dead parrot of a debate. Give it up. Just let go. Move on. Apple made a dent in the universe. Get over it.

Reply Score: -4

RE: What this reminds me of
by ferrels on Thu 30th Aug 2012 18:28 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 Parent Score: 7

RE: What this reminds me of
by flypig on Thu 30th Aug 2012 18:29 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 Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: What this reminds me of
by Tony Swash on Thu 30th Aug 2012 19:12 in reply to "RE: What this reminds me of"
Tony Swash Member since:
2009-08-22

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.

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. A constantly repeated attempts to argue that the Mac OS, the iPhone and the iPad were not inflection points. Some go as far as to argue that Apple's contribution to the development of PCs, phones and tablets (as well as music players, online software and digital content distribution systems) are at best copies and at worst just copies wrapped in good marketing and a zombie like cultish group of deranged followers.

To those who are propose such silly absurdities I say shame on you. Not just for arguing the patently absurd, not just for trying to distort the history of technology but also for parading in public such a weird obsessive need to belittle one of the worlds great technology companies.

What is wrong with you people?

You claim to like technology but you hate one of the giants of technology. And for why? because they didn't die, they didn't fade away, instead they came back, and by being boldly innovative, in a matter of a few years boldly entered and utterly disrupted three entirely new markets and in the process gutted the old Microsoft hegemony and became the world's largest technology company. And that sticks in a lot of people's throats, that pisses off some people because it's not how the script was supposed to play out.

So we get this endless, tedious, juvenile, degrading parade of delusions whose sole purpose is to cut Apple down to size.

It's not that Apple has grown too large.

It's you who insist on being so small.

Reply Parent Score: -1

RE: What this reminds me of
by Megol on Thu 30th Aug 2012 18:35 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 Parent Score: 4

RE: What this reminds me of
by Alfman on Thu 30th Aug 2012 19:15 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 Parent Score: 5

RE: What this reminds me of
by M.Onty on Thu 30th Aug 2012 19:55 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 Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: What this reminds me of
by Tony Swash on Thu 30th Aug 2012 22:13 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 Parent Score: 1

RE: What this reminds me of
by Vanders on Thu 30th Aug 2012 21:17 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 Parent Score: 4

RE: What this reminds me of
by tylerdurden on Fri 31st Aug 2012 01:41 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 Parent Score: 4

RE: What this reminds me of
by StephenBeDoper on Fri 31st Aug 2012 20:05 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 Parent Score: 4