The First Book of Electronics

Can a 95-year-old book still inspire new generations of engineers?

3 min read
Photo of book, "The Boy Electrician"
Photo: Randi Silberman Klett

Recently, I was looking for something online, or probably browsing aimlessly, when I happened on a name I hadn’t thought of since I was a child: Alfred P. Morgan. Someone had uploaded a digitized version of The Boy Electrician. I was instantly swept back more than half a century to my local library. In my mind I saw the familiar metal shelving and the blue-gray binding of my favorite book, also written—and illustrated—by Morgan: The Boys’ First Book of Radio and Electronics.

I remember how often I went back to that little library, enthralled by Morgan’s descriptions in this 1954 book of radios and the like, things that could be built using household parts and a few easily obtained electronic components, like vacuum tubes. Alfred P. Morgan had had a great influence on my childhood, but for all these years, I had forgotten him.

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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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