Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Another interesting document found by Matthew Thomas: The Xerox "Star": A Retrospective, telling us more than we ever expected to know about the Xerox "Star" computer system.

Reading it is amazing. Everything has been there apparently: The concept of a desktop, the word 'Sheet' (though in a slightly different meaning), the knowledge that modes in software are bad, WYSIWYG entering of formulæ, 16 bit character sets, document based computing, integrated applications, apparently a portrait monitor, Ethernet, a lot of user testing, properly crafted icons, acknowledging the importance of the user's on-screen selection (we may see a shadow of that in OSX's underestimated Services), multitasking, ironically no cursor keys at first, and – a pièce de résistance for me – Mail inboxes on the desktop.

And funnily, sadly, this feature set isn't 2003 but it's from 1981 or so. Everything we have now – minus MP3s, ripped Futurama episodes, the ability to shoot each other photorealistically and colour screens – has been there. What the heck did they do in computer business for the past twenty years?

The text also acknowledges certain problems with their system, e.g. that the tight integration made it hard to extend. This made me think about today's computing world which is dominated by Windows and Office. Having that situation in mind spawns the question whether being 'open' and easy to extend is actually an issue. It doesn't seem so.

Each of the points I mentioned probably deserves proper treatment on its own, so I won't start. I'll just mention that one image in the text. It demonstrates certain concepts but at the same time explains that the peace symbol stems from the footprint of a dove. There seem to be plenty of theories about its origin – plus the one I recently heard of.

April 10, 2003, 1:49


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please post more comments, I will visit this site again

May 4, 2003, 9:28

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