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The Truth About Bender’s Brain

David X. Cohen, executive producer and head writer of “Futurama,” reveals how MOS Technology’s 6502 processor ended up in the robot’s head

4 min read
“Futurama” tm and © 2009 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.
“Futurama” tm and © 2009 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

This is part of IEEE Spectrum’s Special Report: 25 Microchips That Shook the World.

On 14 November 1999, an episode of “Futurama,” the animated sci-fi comedy series conceived by “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening, jolted computer geeks with a display of technological acumen absolutely unprecedented in prime-time entertainment. In the episode, “Fry and the Slurm Factory,” a character named Professor Farnsworth points his F-ray at the head of the show’s famously ill-tempered robot, Bender. It reveals a little rectangle, apparently a chip, labeled “6502.”

The 6502 was a beloved—at least by geeks—8-bit microprocessor created by MOS Technology in 1975. It was the chip that the scruffy-bearded, sandal-wearing Steve Wozniak used to build the Apple II in 1977—“The Machine That Changed Everything,” as PC World once put it. It was also used in the Commodore PET, the BBC Micro, and a host of other systems that fomented the personal computer revolution.

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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
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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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