Mac's Graphical Screen Transformed Personal Computing 30 Years Ago

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2014-01-26 Print this article Print

The rest, as they say, is history. The folks at Byte loved the Mac, and it became clear to me that there were some things that this new graphical computer could do very well. But when it came time to buy some more computers for our office, we went with the Zeniths. I knew where to get the applications we needed. I knew how to set up these computers so they could interface with the mainframes and, quite frankly, the learning curve wasn't as steep.

But then the obstacles to GUI use and the obstacles to the Macintosh began to fall. Microsoft introduced Windows nearly two years after the Mac made its debut, but Windows didn't start out as a complete operating system that was effective enough for general use. Instead, Windows ran on top of MS-DOS, bringing added features and a basic graphical interface. But much of the time you needed to drop out of Windows and execute programs using the MS-DOS command-line interface.

When I retired from the Navy in 1985 and went to work in the civilian world, I discovered that Macs were everywhere. At first they were pretty much relegated to corporate art and publishing departments. Some companies still had an earlier version of an Apple with a GUI, the Lisa. After a few years, I went to work in the publishing business and found that Macs had grown beyond just a few people using publishing software and into mainstream business computing.

By then the GUI in Windows had become more of a full-scale graphical operating system and Unix-based computers were running their own GUIs. By now, the influence of the Mac was clear enough that companies such as Microsoft were actually trying to make themselves look LESS like the Mac. By the mid-1990s, however, the die was cast. The GUI was the standard, the norm. While the command line still existed for some platforms, you usually had to invoke it as a separate application.

Now, 30 years later, the tiny, little monochrome screen of the original Mac is gone, but it leaves as its legacy a world where everything is graphical. A Mac user from 1984 would feel vastly more at home with my Windows 7-based computer on which I am typing these words than would an MS-DOS user from those days. Quietly, through sheer utility, the Mac is now everywhere, even where it says Windows.



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