Annotated transcription of the lecture “Origins of the Apple human interface”

Recently, the Computer History Museum has uploaded on its YouTube channel a lecture called Origins of the Apple human interface, delivered by Larry Tesler and Chris Espinosa. The lecture was held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, on October 28, 1997.

Being extremely interested in the subject myself, and seeing how apparently little thought is being given today to the subject, I wanted to quote a few selected excerpts from the talk, just to show what kind of hard work creating a user interface was back in the day when the Apple Lisa was being developed. It turns out that isolating this or that bit was futile, as the whole talk is made up of such cohesive, engrossing discourse. So I chose to transcribe it almost entirely, and add a few personal remarks here and there. You can read the full annotated transcription on my main website.

Going online – in 1986

Oh, this is indeed a nice find. Browsing through the video archives of the Polytechnic University of Valencia, I have found a short documentary (16 minutes) entitled Going Online – An Introduction to the World of Online Information. It was created by a company called Learned Information, Inc. (Medford, NJ) in 1986, and released on VHS. It’s a short overview about how to search information in online database systems, and I found it of great interest firstly because it explains how things worked before the Web, and secondly (but equally important) I think it’s a great visual impact for it features some computers and devices which were common (probably even state-of-the-art) at that time. Therefore I’ve taken some screencaps to share with you. You’re forewarned: this post is quite image-intensive, that’s why I’ve put most images after the cut. Enjoy!

The very first image is of a woman, probably in her living-room, connecting with her portable computer, a powerful Tandy TRS-80 model 100 connected via an acoustic coupler modem. (Fig. 1)


Continue reading “Going online – in 1986”

Probably the best Apple IIGS modification

Apple IIGS – laptop version: I found Benjamin Heckendorn’s site by chance, as I was looking for some Apple IIGS images in Google Images search. When I saw the first picture, thanks to the particular white design and the all too bright and almost hyper-defined image on the LCD display, I thought this was a mockup. It isn’t. Apparently, modifying old computers and consoles is Heckendorn’s speciality (take a look at all his other projects) and I’m really in awe looking at what he did with the Apple IIGS. I love the keyboard and the “][” glowing blue when the computer is on. I love the overall retro look, and that white portable could very well fit in 1970s sci-fi series like Space: 1999. Heckendorn writes:

The basic idea with this unit was to make it look like an laptop that had been designed in the 80’s. The large amount of vertical air holes (basically pointless since this machine gets about as hot as your average pocket calculator) are meant to subconsciously remind the viewer of the fairly compact Apple IIc. You can see the speaker slits from this angle as well.

By the way, I recently acquired the original ADB keyboard that came with the IIGS (for a sample, see this photo — no, it’s not my system, sadly!) and, as I well remembered, it’s a joy to use. Ben Heckendorn agrees:

Upon taking apart the original IIgs keyboard (also used on old Mac Classics) I must say that it is without a doubt the best built keyboard I have every come across in all my days.

That Apple IIGS project was posted in April 2008, and I’m sure it was widely publicised throughout the Internets, but I missed it because I was getting ill at that time. So probably it won’t be new for many of my readers. If you missed it too, though, please enjoy. It’s really a beautiful modification — and I’m usually against hardware hacks.

Happy New Year!