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John Deere and the Birth of Precision Agriculture

Farmers were on the fence about precision farming, until Deere engineers made it more accurate and economical

4 min read
Photo by Division of Work and Industry/NMAH/Smithsonian Institution
Photo: Division of Work and Industry/NMAH/Smithsonian Institution

In the early 19th century, a blacksmith named John Deere moved from Vermont to Illinois, where he noticed that the farmers were having trouble. The sticky prairie soil accumulated on their traditional iron plows, forcing them to stop frequently to clean the blades.

Deere had an idea, and in 1837 he introduced his “self-scouring” steel plow. The blade cut through the tough, root-filled earth, and its curved shape allowed the soil to turn over. Deere’s invention became known as “the plow that broke the plains” and helped transform the Midwest into fertile farmland. His eponymous company became the largest plow manufacturer in the world.

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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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