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Today, we're going to discuss the critical role graphical user interfaces, or GUIs played in the adoption of computers. Before the mid 1980's the most common way people could interact with their devices was through command line interfaces, which though efficient, aren't really designed for casual users. This all changed with the introduction of the Macintosh by Apple in 1984. It was the first mainstream computer to use a GUI, standing on the shoulder of nearly two decades of innovation including work from the father of the GUI himself, Douglas Englebart, and some amazing breakthroughs at Xerox Parc.


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Hi I'm Carrie Anne and welcome to Crash Course Computer Science.

We ended last episode with a 1984 release of Apple's Macintosh personal computer. It was the first computer a regular person can buy with a graphical user interface and a mouse to interact with it.

This was a radical evolution from the command line interfaces found on all other personal computers of the era. Instead of having to remember or guess the right command to type in, a graphical user interface show you what functions are possible. You just have to look around on the screen for what you want to do.

It's a point and click interface. All of the sudden, computers were much more intuitive. Anybody, not just hobbyists or computer scientists could figure things out all by themselves.

The Macintosh is credited with taking graphical user interfaces, or GUI's, mainstream but in reality they were the results of many decades of research. In previous episodes, we've discussed some early interactive graphical applications like sketchpad and spacewalk, both made in 1962. But these were one of programs and not whole integrated computing experiences.

Arguably the true forefather of modern GUIs was Douglas Engelbert. Let's go to the thought bubble. During WWII while Engelbert was stationed in the Philippines as a radar operator, he read Vannevar Bush's article on the Memex.

These ideas inspired him and when his navy service ended, he returned to school completing a phD in 1955 at UC Berkeley. Heavily involved in the emerging computing scene, he collected his thoughts in the seminal 1962 report titled Augmenting Human Intellect. Engelbert believed that the complexity of the problems facing mankind was growing faster than our ability to solve them.

Therefore, finding ways to augment our intellect would seem to be both a necessary and a desirable goal. He thought that computers could be used for beyond just automation and be essential interactive tools for future knowledge workers to tackle complex problems.

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