Why Hawaii Got Electricity Before Most of the Rest of the World

In 1881, Thomas Edison convinced King Kalakaua that electric streetlamps were superior to gas

4 min read
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Photo: The Friends of Iolani Palace

In 1881, King David Kalakaua of Hawaii went on a world tour, the first of its kind for a sitting monarch. He circumnavigated the globe, stopping in Asia, India, Egypt, Europe, and the United States. Among other things, he sought to encourage immigration from the Asia-Pacific region, as Hawaii’s dwindling population had created a labor shortage on its sugar plantations. But the king also wanted to introduce the culture of Hawaii to the world, and he was curious about modern science and technology.

When he arrived in Paris in August 1881, the International Exposition of Electricity was just getting under way. The exposition showcased the latest advancements in electrical technology, such as dynamos, batteries, and lighting. The first International Electrical Congress also convened during the exposition, with participants presenting papers, discussing research, and deciding on definitions for the ampere, the volt, the ohm, and other electrical units.

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How the Graphical User Interface Was Invented

Three decades of UI research came together in the mice, windows, and icons used today

18 min read
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Stylized drawing of a desktop computer with mouse and keyboard, on the screen are windows, Icons, and menus
Getty Images/IEEE Spectrum
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Mice, windows, icons, and menus: these are the ingredients of computer interfaces designed to be easy to grasp, simplicity itself to use, and straightforward to describe. The mouse is a pointer. Windows divide up the screen. Icons symbolize application programs and data. Menus list choices of action.

But the development of today’s graphical user interface was anything but simple. It took some 30 years of effort by engineers and computer scientists in universities, government laboratories, and corporate research groups, piggybacking on each other’s work, trying new ideas, repeating each other’s mistakes.

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