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Forensic Software Pieces Together Leibniz’s Last Puzzle

Technology pioneered to reveal Cold War secrets is being used to reconstruct the polymath’s journals

3 min read
photo of a researcher at work in the scanning room
Photo: Michael Dumiak

photo of a researcher at work in the scanning roomThe Last Integration: Researchers are using advanced scanners and software originally developed to crack Cold War secrets to reassemble Leibniz’s notes.Photo: Michael Dumiak

Behind an unmarked door in Hanover, Germany, a bearded young man with stylish glasses and a pierced lip is loading 350-year-old pieces of paper onto glass plates for digitization by a souped-up scanner. These pieces of paper are part of an immense puzzle. If solved, it could give insights into one of the greatest minds of all time: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.

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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
Stylized drawing of a desktop computer with mouse and keyboard, on the screen are windows, Icons, and menus
Getty Images/IEEE Spectrum

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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