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Stopping Buck Rogers From Going Boom

Surviving atmospheric reentry was once the biggest problem in aerospace

2 min read
Photo of a scientist looking on as a pointed nose cone is heated to mimic reentry conditions.
Photo: Don Cravens/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Going to space is easy. Coming back in one piece is hard.

Rockets start off moving slowly at the bottom of the Earth’s atmosphere, where the air pressure is highest. As they gain altitude, and the danger of overheating or structural failure due to dynamic pressure decreases, rockets can go faster and faster.

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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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