How Did We Get To Metro? (Part 2)

10/25/2012 9:17:33 AM

A mere year before, 1983, saw the release of Apple Lisa system 1. Unfortunately it didn't survive very long, but it paved the way for the first GUI developed for the Macintosh: System 1.0.

Description: A Mac's first outing (although this screenshot is actually 1.1)
A Mac's first outing (although this screenshot is actually 1.1)

It was a massive leap in evolutionary terms, although the writing had been on the wall for some time. Mac OS System 1.0 featured icons, menus, and multiple windows. You could move the icons on the desktop and copy and paste folders by dragging and dropping. Although the system could only run one application at a time, it came with 'Finder', an application that could manage files and launch programs, and when a disk was inserted it appeared on the desktop.

It's all stuff we take for granted nowadays, but in its small way Mac OS System 1.0 set the bar for what an OS and a GUI should look like and, more importantly, what it should be able to do for the user.

The screenshots are apparently from System 1.1, but there was little change to the look of the GUI during the first few updates.

Amiga Workbench 1.0

In the timeline of evolution, if 1984 was the year that the GUI started to walk on two legs, instead of all fours, then 1985 would be the year it invented fire, tools, and farming, shaved off all its bodily hair and went to a disco. Yes, the Amiga Workbench had landed, and it was incredible.

Admit it; the Amiga workbench was fantastic; it even looks cool by today's standards. As far as the evolution of the GUI goes, AW1.0 was well and truly ahead of its time, with things such as a recycle bin, proper animated menus, multi-state icons, stereo sound, left-click and right-click menus, the ability to launch more than one application at a time and the real star of the show: color! Indeed, Workbench was fit to perform all of its duties in glorious black, white, blue and orange out of a palette of 4,096 and at a resolution of 640 x 512.

Description: A The Amiga Workbench 1.0, with eye-catching (eye-watering) colour schemes
The Amiga Workbench 1.0, with eye-catching (eye-watering) color schemes

However, one of the greatest features that the Amiga Workbench offered was the underlying customizable interface. With this the Amiga user could alter the colors, change the appearance of the icons and even manipulate the state of the pop-up menus. This level of customization was unique in such a way that the Amiga Workbench earned the respect of the first wave of tinkerers and, although often regarded as chaotic, the Amiga Workbench showed the world of personal computing that the GUI was the future.

Looking at the screenshot (thanks to, you can see how, by using the snapshot, a user could open an application, or a window, and keep its settings, dimensions and content every time they booted into the GUI. In many ways, it's thanks to Amiga Workbench that we now have a customizable desktop that remains unique to the user and makes the GUI not only a friendly interface but also a very personal one.

Windows 1.0

1985 also saw the release of Microsoft's new 16-bit entry into the GUI market, Interface Manager, or as it was later called: Windows 1.0. Although Microsoft had entered the race a little late, it had spent its time wisely and created a GUI that was not only colorful, but could also make use of the existing DOS programs as well as the new executable that were designed purely for Windows.

Often regarded as the front-end to DOS, Windows 1.0 featured many great advances over the traditional OS and GUI. For one, it had dedicated drivers for graphics cards, mice, keyboards and printers, whereas many operating systems of the day communicated with these devices from the hardware level. Multi-tasking had been improved and opened windows tiled on the desktop, making a neater viewing area, and Windows 1.0 featured a number of pre-installed or supplied applications: Fileman, calculator, calendar, card file, clipboard viewer, and clock, Notepad, Paint, Reversi, Terminal and Write.

Windows 1.0 fast became the operating system of choice for many business users, as well as the home user. It was much cheaper in comparison to the competition, costing in the region of $99, and it didn't require the equivalent of a Cray supercomputer to run, needing only a bare minimum of 256KB of memory in order to get up and running, plus it didn't require the user to gain a PhD in computing science prior to moving the mouse. Windows 1.0 was designed to represent information in a way that closely resembled the way people worked at that time; it worked off the shelf and, due to its pricing, it allowed the education sector to get their hands on PCs for classrooms, thus bringing the next generation in line with the Microsoft GUI and ethos.

Description: A Windows 1.0, the start of something big
A Windows 1.0, the start of something big

Windows looked good. It could run everything the PC users had at the time, it was simple to use and it was intuitive. The use of drop-down menus, scroll bars, better-looking icons, dialogue boxes and application switching made many millions for Bill and his band of merry men and became the stepping stone to making the GUI an independent operating system, as opposed to being installed on top of DOS.


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