The graphical user interface, or “GUI”, is a computer interface that uses graphic icons and controls in addition to text. The user of the computer utilizes a pointing device, like a mouse, to manipulate these icons and controls. This was a great leap forward from the command line interface used in other operating systems, in which the user types a series of text commands to the computer.
The first concept of a windowing system begins with the first real-time graphic display systems for computers, namely the SAGE Project and Ivan Sutherlandâ€™s Sketchpad.
Augmentation of Human Intellect
Doug Engelbartâ€™s Augmentation of Human Intellect project at SRI in the 1960s developed the On-Line System, which incorporated a mouse-driven cursor and multiple windows.
Engelbartâ€™s work directly led to the advances at Xerox PARC. Several people went from SRI to Xerox PARC in the early 1970â€™s. The Xerox PARC team codified the WIMP (windows, icons, menus and pointers/pull-down menus) paradigm, first pioneered on the Xerox Alto experimental computer, but which eventually appeared commercially in the Xerox 8010 (“Star”) system in 1981.
Apple Lisa and Macintosh
Beginning in 1979, led by Jef Raskin, the Lisa and Macintosh teams at Apple Computer (which included former members of the Xerox PARC group) continued to develop such ideas. The Macintosh, released in 1984, was the first commercially successful product to use a GUI. A desktop metaphor was used, in which files looked like pieces of paper; directories looked like file folders; there were a set of desk accessories like a calculator, notepad, and alarm clock that the user could place around the screen as desired; and the user could delete files and folders by dragging them to a trash can on the screen.
There is still some controversy over the amount of influence that Xeroxâ€™s PARC work, as opposed to previous academic research, had on the GUIs of Appleâ€™s Lisa and Macintosh, but it is clear that the influence was extensive.
The Macintoshâ€™s GUI has been revised with time since 1984, with a major update with System 7, and underwent its largest revision with the introduction of the “Aqua” interface in 2001â€™s Mac OS X.
Graphical user interface primarily designed for spreadsheets by the company that wrote the legendary VisiCalc spreadsheet. First introduced the “windows” concept and a mouse to the PC environment, in 1983. Preceded the first Microsoft Windows implementations. VisiOn never took off because it could not be used to run other MS-DOS applications and was buggy and expensive. Inspired the multitasking system DESQview.
Amiga computers developed a GUI in 1985 called Intuition. In this GUI directories were shown as filing cabinet drawers.
The Amiga GUI was unique for its time because it featured a pop-up command line interface (CLI) for those times when a GUI does not offer enough control.
At the same time Microsoft was developing Windows in the 1980s, Digital Research developed the GEM Desktop GUI system. GEM was created as an alternative window system to run on IBM PC systems, either on top of MS-DOS (like Microsoft Windows) or on top of CPM-86, DRâ€™s own operating system that MS-DOS was patterened after. GEM achieved minimal success in the PC world, but was later used as the native GUI on the Atari ST machines.
GEOS was another very early graphical desktop system. Originally written for the 8 bit home computer Commodore 64 it was later ported to IBM PC systems. It came with several application programs like a calendar and word processor, and a cut-down version served as the basis for America Onlineâ€™s DOS client. Compared to the competing Windows 3.0 GUI, it could run reasonably well on simpler hardware.
Revivals were seen in the HP OmniGo handhelds, Brother GeoBook line of laptop-appliances, and the New Deal Office package for PCs. Related code found its way to earlier â€™Zoomerâ€™ PDAs, creating an unclear lineage to Palm, Incâ€™s later work.
Microsoft modeled the first version of Windows, released in 1985, on the GUI of the Mac OS. Windows 1.0 was a GUI (graphic user interface) for the MS-DOS operating system that had been the standard OS for with IBM PC and compatible computers since 1981. Windows 2.0 followed, then in 1990 the Windows 3.0 launch was when the popularity of Windows really exploded. The GUIs of subsequent versions of Windows have been similar to the GUI of Windows 3.0.
In 1988, Apple sued Microsoft for copyright infringement of the Lisa and Apple Macintosh GUI. The court case lasted 4 years before almost all of Appleâ€™s claims were denied. Subsequent appeals by Apple were also denied, and Microsoft and Apple apparently entered a final, private settlement of the matter in 1997 as a side note in a broader announcement of investment and cooperation.
Early versions of what became called RISC OS were known as Arthur, which was released in 1987. RISC OS was a colour GUI operating system which used three-buttoned mice, a taskbar (called the iconbar), and a file navigator similar to that of Mac OS. Acorn created RISC OS in the 1980s for their ARM-CPU based computers.
The NeXTSTEP user interface was used in the NeXT line of computers. NeXTSTEPâ€™s first major version was released in 1989. It used Display PostScript for its graphical underpinning. The NeXTSTEP interfaceâ€™s most significant feature was the Dock, carried into Mac OS X, and had other minor interface details that some found made it easier and more intuitive to use than previous GUIs. NeXTSTEPâ€™s GUI was the first to feature opaque dragging of windows in its user interface, on a comparatively weak machine by todayâ€™s standards.
Originally collaboratively developed by Microsoft and IBM to replace DOS, version 1.0 (released in 1987) had no GUI at all. Version 1.1 (released 1988) included Presentation Manager (PM), which looked a lot like the later Windows 3.0 UI. After the split with Microsoft, IBM developed the Workplace Shell (WPS) for version 2.0 (released in 1992), a quite radical, object-oriented approach to GUIs. Microsoft later imitated much of this in Windows 95.
BeOSX Window System
The PostScript-based NeWS (Network extensible Window System) was developed by Sun Microsystems. For several years SunOS included a window system combining NeWS and the X Window System. Although NeWS was considered technically elegant by some commentators, Sun eventually dropped the product. Unlike X, NeWS was always proprietary software.
The X Window System
The standard windowing system in the Unix world, developed in the early 1980s, is the X Window System, or X. X was developed at MIT as Project Athena. Its original purpose was to allow users of the newly emerging graphic terminals to access remote graphics workstations, without regard to the workstationâ€™s operating system or the hardware. Due largely to the availability of the source code used to write X, it has become the standard layer for management of graphical and input/output devices and for the building of both local and remote graphical interfaces on virtually all systems, including UNIX, the BSD operating systems and the GNU/Linux distributions.
X allows a graphical terminal user to make use of remote resources on the network as if they were all located locally to the user by running a single module of software called the X server. The software running on the remote workstation is called the client application. Xâ€™s network transparency protocols allow the display and input portions of any application to be separated from the remainder of the application and â€™served upâ€™ to any of a large number of remote users.
In the early days of X Window development Sun Microsystems and AT&T attempted to push for a GUI standard called OpenLook in competition with Motif. OpenLook was a well-designed standard developed from scratch while MOTIF was a collective effort that fell into place. Many who worked on OpenLook at the time appreciate its design coherence. Motif prevailed the â€™religiousâ€™ war and became the bases for CDE (Common Desktop Environment). Both X and Open Motif are available today as free software.
In the late 1990s, there was significant growth in the Unix world, especially among the free software community. New graphical desktop movements grew up around GNU/Linux and similar operating systems, based on the X. A new emphasis on providing an integrated and uniform interface to the user brought about new desktop environments, KDE and GNOME.
X Window System
The X Window System is a window system for computers with bitmap graphical displays created at MIT in the 1980s and now under the supervision of X.Org. Currently at version 11 release 6 (X11R6), it is more commonly called X11 or simply X. It is also often referred to as “X Windows”, analogous to “Microsoft Windows”, but this usage is incorrect and discouraged. A T-shirt seen at an X11 conference bore this sentiment: “It’s a windowing system named ‘X’, not a system named ‘X Windows'”.
The X Window System was initially conceived in 1984, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a joint project between their Laboratory for Computer Science and the Digital Equipment Corporation. The initial impetus for the X Window System was MIT’s Project Athena, which sought to provide easy access to computing resources for all students. Because MIT could not buy all the workstations needed, nor was any single vendor willing to donate them, a platform-independent graphics system was required to link together the heterogenous systems. The first version of the X Window System to be widely deployed was Version 10 (X10). It was shortly thereafter superseded by Version 11 (X11) in 1987.
In 1988, a non-profit group called the (MIT) X Consortium was formed to direct future development of X standards in an atmosphere inclusive of many commercial and educational interests. The X Consortium produced several significant revisions to X11, concluding with Release 6 in 1994 (X11R6).
The X Consortium dissolved at the end of 1996, producing a final, small revision to X11R6 called X11R6.3. Ownership of X then passed to The Open Group, an outgrowth of the Open Software Foundation (OSF), who produced the popular Motif widget set for X. In early 1998, the Open Group released a further revision to X11R6, called X11R6.4 — a departure from the traditional licensing terms, however, prevented adoption of this version of the X Window System by many vendors, including the XFree86 Project, Inc. In late 1998, the Open Group relicensed X11R6.4 under terms identical with the traditional license.
In May 1999, stewardship of the X Window System passed from the Open Group to X.Org, a non-profit organization focused exclusively on maintenance and further development of the X Window System. X.Org has supervised the release of X11R6.5.1.
XFree86 is a free and Open Source implementation of the X Window System which runs under Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, MacOS X, Windows NT and several other minor flavors of Unix. As of 1 October 2001, XFree86 supported the X11R6.5.1 spec, including the GLX and Render extensions.
The XFree86 project has recently been forked by Keith Packard, creating the XWin project; the new branch of the X server itself has been given the name Xouvert.
What is XFree86?
The XFree86 Project, Inc is a global volunteer organisation which produces XFree86Â®, a freely redistributable open-source implementation of the X Window System. XFree86 runs primarily on UNIXÂ® and UNIX-like operating systems like Linux, all of the BSD variants, Sun Solaris both native 32 and 64 bit support, Solaris x86, Mac OS X (via Darwin), SGI’s Irix as well as other platforms like OS/2 and Cygwin.
XFree86, provides a client/server interface between display hardware (the mouse, keyboard, and video displays) and the desktop environment while also providing both the windowing infrastructure and a standardized application interface (API).
XFree86 is platform-independent, network-transparent and extensible. In short, XFree86 is an open source X11-based desktop infrastructure with our goals and purpose detailed in our Mission Statement.
X.Org Foundation Background
On 22nd January 2004, the original members of X.Org and several industry participants announced the formation of The X.Org Foundation.
The X.Org Foundation will assume the role of being the worldwide consortium empowered with the stewardship and collaborative development of the X Window System technology and standards previously managed by X.Org.
The X.Org Foundation is a Delaware registered LLC, seeking to act as a scientific charity under the IRS 501(c)(3) code. Its mission is to maintain and enhance the existing X Window System code base, engineering appropriate enhancements that will be driven by current and future market requirements. The X.Org Foundation will periodically provide official X Window System update releases to the general public free of charge. The X.Org Foundation will govern the evolution of the X11R6 specifications, working with appropriate groups to revise and post updates to the standard as required.
The X.Org web-site will evolve into the home of the X.Org Foundation as the group and its operating procedures are defined.