Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Creating the Apple Lisa (and Mac) user interface

How exactly are graphical user interfaces created? Obviously it involves programming and design work but where do you start, especially if there arn't many examples of GUIs to gain inspiration from? This extraordinary page on the Mac Folklore website has a series of photographs how the Apple Lisa GUI developed from the first basic graphic tests to the finished article which shipped in the early 1980s, and later carried on by the Apple Macintosh to the present day.

What is especially interesting how the Apple UI, with elements still familiar and used today such as the menu at the top, evolved. Early in the Lisa GUI development a softkey menu along the bottom of the screen was the direction the developers took before the abrupt change to a window and mouse based design. Inspired / stolen from Xerox PARC? Well various theories abound, i'm sure there was plenty of inspiration taken but some elements of the GUI are said to predate that.

It is interesting that in 1980 the Lisa had a menu on the top of windows (like Microsoft Windows later went with) instead of along the top of the screen as how the final design used.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

MOnSter 6502

The MOnSter 6502 is very neat, it is a working replica of the MOS 6502 CPU (as used in computers like the Apple II - see below for my IIe) using transistors. Obviously it is quite a bit bigger than an actual 6502 (about seven thousand times) being made out of non-minaturised components though it is fully working - if slower. It just shows how integrated circuits made microcomputing possible.

Apparently a modern CPU like the Apple A9X as in my iPad redone like this would cover about two hundred and eighty six square metres...

I just love things like the MOnSter 6502, i'm so glad there are people with the time and the ability to still do such nonsense.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Programming the PDP-11

This is great, part 1 of a video series showing to operate and program a DEC PDP-11. The other parts are accessible from the end of part 1.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Apple Monitor IIc (A2M4090)

As we saw earlier the Apple IIc was Apple's first attempt at a portable computer, though was not a laptop as we might imagine today. Merely it was a smaller version of the 8-bit Apple II that was easy to carry around. However the computer needed an external power supply and monitor... the Monitor IIc. Less easy to carry around.

If ever a monitor can be described as cute then the Monitor IIc is. It was small, just a 9" display and green on black. The Apple IIc was the first computer to use Apple's then new "Snow White" design language. Uniquely the IIc family are in a special off-white colour known to Apple as "fog". No other computers were released by Apple in this colour.

Friday, 9 February 2018

1970s Computer Adverts... an occasional series

Never mind about your minifloppy kid, its what you do with it which counts.. allegedly.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

IBM 1403 Printer

This is an interesting feature on the IBM 1401 computer system which revolutionised computing in the early 1960s and it's printer the IBM 1403 which could reach 1,100 lines of print per minute. The 1403 was impact printer so of course was rather loud. I remember the printers connected to the (Prime) minicomputer at university, they were also fast and also sounded like a chain saw when in operation.

The printers were remote in another building from the actual computer which was in the campus' computer centre. If the printer paper fouled up and you were changing the paper you never knew if a print job sent from someone else in the faculty was about to come through and send everything into chaos. I suppose that counted as excitement back then.

Anyway returning to the 1403, it was fast because it was a line printer. A chain of metal embossed characters (each character on the chain 5 times) continuously revolved and the paper was pushed against the relevant character (and an ink ribbon) by tiny hammers to print a character [1]. Hence the speed... and the noise. The article comes with an interesting video history of the 1401. You can see it below too.

[1] Barry Wilkinson & David Horrocks, Computer Peripherals (Edward Arnold, 1987) p. 90

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Apple IIc

The Apple IIc was Apple's first attempt at a "portable" computer. However it wasn't quite as we would expect a portable these days. Although fairly small and compact (though quite a bit bigger than the average laptop these days - including the Macbook i am typing this on) and came with a carry handle it did not have a built in screen or power supply. Both had to be carried separately.

The Apple IIc was quite impressive from the point of view of technology of the time though (1984) with a built in floppy drive (5.25 inch one too!) and a good full size keyboard. However it lacked the expandability of the hugely successful Apple IIe and as it was released nearly at the same time as the Macintosh some of the technology already looked a bit dated. It was much cheaper than the Mac of course.

The Apple IIc introduced the "Snow White" design language which would define Apple hardware throughout the decade and beyond. Uniquely the Apple IIc was in an off-white colour called "Fog" which was not used on any other Apple computer, which is a shame as it does look pretty good. My Apple IIc did work the last time i tried it though that was a long time ago...
IIc atop the much larger IIe

Ports on the back, and the handle