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The Apple Computer Story - The Graphic User Interface 1983-1984


Image: ICI

Source: Museum Victoria

Several stages have been identified in the history of the Apple Computer Company from 1976 to 2002. These stages are not necessarily chronological and, in fact, some overlap in time.

This narrative deals with one of those stages.

Each stage is described in a separate narrative.

The complete list of stages is:

Apple I Launched 1976
Corporate Rise 1977-1983
The Graphic User Interface 1983-1984
Desktop Publishing 1985-1991 
Imaging 1987-1994
Cable Networking 1984-1991
Portability 1977 onwards
Digital Video 1991
Apple loses its way 1991-1996
Return to Roots 1996-1999
MegaHertz War Myth 1994-2005
UNIX operating system adopted 1999 and 2001
Wireless connectivity introduced 1999
Music for the Millions 2001onwards

The Graphic User Interface 1983-1984

While Apple grew at a stupendous rate in the late 1970s, alerting the world that computing was not restricted to main frames. However it faced competition from Big Blue (IBM), which also saw a future for personal computing. IBM licensed software from a small company in Albuquerque, called Microsoft, which also was soon to develop software for Apple. Jobs was alerted to new developments in computer research, particularly new interfaces being developed not far away from Apple HQ at XeroxParc in Palo Alto.

The Apple III computer had not been successful, and under competitive pressure, Jobs pursued new computing systems and arranged to exchange Apple shares for time spent in an unfettered visit to XeroxParc's research departments. Xerox's executives had seen its research as being without commercial value. However when Jobs saw some of the new developments for himself, he immediately knew here were the beginnings of a new way of computing: a graphical user interface (rather than a command line) where a keyboard and a new device called a mouse controlled the computer's actions. Jobs quickly ditched the Apple II computer, and began development of a new computer: the Lisa (named after his daughter, although an alternative explanation is that it is an acronym for Local Integrated Software Architecture). Although not a commercial success, the Lisa paved the way for the most famous Apple computer: the Macintosh. Introduced in 1984 with a single minute long advertisement during the American Super Bowl, directed by Ridley Scott ('Blade Runner'; Gladiator), and without showing its product - the ad has been voted as being the best commercial ever - the Macintosh began a new era in personal computing. Its Windows, Icons, Menus, and Pointing device (WIMP) have become the de facto standard for contemporary computing despite many competitors of the day labelling it a 'toy' computer. The Graphic User Interface (GUI) facilitated the development of the www. This original Mac introduced many new and revolutionary features which thematically remain to this day. In essence, the Mac was Apple's attempt to make computing a simple, user-friendly activity, allowing its users to exploit their creativity in profound and hitherto prohibitively expensive means, which had previously required high end professional gear.

Also released in 1984 was the ImageWriter, the first printer exclusively built for the Macintosh series. Its predecessor, the Apple Dot Matrix Printer, was discontinued soon after the release of the ImageWriter. The ImageWriter was a low-cost dot-matrix printer with QuickDraw support. It was extremely popular amongst consumer computer users because of its relatively small price and high printing speed. In 1990 the ink-jet StyleWriter series replaced the ImageWriter series. That philosophy that inspired these developments - user friendliness and allowing for the exploitation of personal creativity - have remained a unique Apple hallmark.

Introduction of Graphic User Interface: Windows, Icons, Menus and Pointing Device 1983 - 1984 is represented in the the Apple Collection by: Lisa; Lisa software; Macintosh; Macintosh Software; ImageWriter; Superbowl advert (video); Word processing; Database software; Spreadsheet software; Animation software; Games.

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