Desktop UI/OS Design History

December 7, 2010 | Past

The earliest OS I ever used was the Apple II (my first computer as a kid), but quickly moved on to the Xerox Alto (on which Smalltalk ran and on which I did my undergraduate thesis), the Amiga OS (which was a lot uglier than people want to acknowledge), and X Windows (in grad school). They’re hugely nostalgic for me but, I’m sure now, I’d cry if I tried using them.

Guy Haviv, on his blog Meet Gooya just posted this great History of UI / OS Design. It’s a slideshare of a presentation he gave on the visual history of desktop operating system user interface design and it’s full of great examples.

It was great that Guy mentioned that many of the examples he used came from GUIdebook — “a website dedicated to preserving and showcasing Graphical User Interfaces.” The site is definitely worth exploring, and full of lots of other interesting archives (including apps, icon sets, splash screens, sounds, etc).

Take a look. In ways it’s amazing the rate at which these interfaces have changed. But, simultaneously, you can’t help but notice how fundamentally alike they all are. We strive to develop new metaphores and interaction models, but what’s familiar remains — perhaps with a fancier skin. When can we have the revolution?

MS-DOS Shell

SGI IRIX

Amiga OS

NeXT

Xerox Alto

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