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Log On Like It’s 1985: A Fragment of Minitel Returns

A popular chat service, 3615 SM, has been resurrected from the original code

3 min read
Photo: Daniel Hannaby
Photo: Daniel Hannaby

photoPhoto: Daniel Hannaby

Lost cyberspaces are like lost cities. You can read about their architecture and learn about the mark they made on history, but you can’t explore the place yourself. Even when the hardware or software that folks used to visit those spaces remains, once the last server goes off line, all that’s left are the memories. Unless, that is, one of the original builders decides to do some reconstruction.

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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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