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The Birth of Digital Poetry

An English professor rediscovered how some of the best poets in the world were coding poetry algorithms in the 1960s

3 min read
photo of J.M. Coetzee
Photo: Micheline Pelletier Decaux/Getty Images

photo of J.M. CoetzeeProgrammer Poet: Acclaimed author J.M. Coetzee developed software for composing verse on an early British supercomputer.Photo: Micheline Pelletier Decaux/Getty Images

When we think of people who probe the historical uses of technology, English professors don’t usually spring to mind. But Rebecca Roach, a postdoctoral researcher in modern literature at Kings College London, did just that when she came across a box of “incomprehensible material” last year while diving into the archives of the Nobel Prize–winning poet and novelist J.M. Coetzee at the Harry Ransom Center, at the University of Texas at Austin.

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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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