Sit down around the campfire, chillins. I gonna tell ya a story.
Well, story, yes - dialect, no.
As you look at computers and computing devices today, there is one thing that is strikingly common to all computers that humans interact with - it's called the GUI - the Graphical User Interface. The GUI allows the human to deliver information to the computer in a format easy for the human to understand and deal with, and by the same token, the GUI allows the human to easily see and understand the information the computer needs to display.
Now. Those of us who remember mainframes and the 'green screens' know that computer interfaces didn't always look so pretty. Just where did the GUI come from?
Macintosh? Good guess, but no. Macs were the first Personal Computers in the open market to successfully sport a GUI, but that's not where the GUI came from. In fact, if circumstances had been just a bit different, it could well have been said the Apple STOLE every aspect of the GUI from somewhere else.
Microsoft? No. They stole their ideas from Apple. In the early 1980's, Microsoft started down the road which would lead to Windows as we know it today - but all of the elements of their GUI were already more than 10 years old.
No. Once upon a time there was a company - a truly magical company (actually, a division of a much larger company) called PARC. The Palo Alto Research Corporation, started by Xerox with the charter to create the "Office of the Future".
The first thing they did was invent laser printing. And you thought it was Hewlett Packard who did that, right?
By 1973 they had developed the Personal Workstation. It has been argued that PARC actually invented the Personal Computer - though they never laid claim to that. The Personal Workstation had a keyboard, a mouse, and a cursor that could drag things across the screen - the screen, by the way, which used a concept referred to, internally, as windows. And they invented Ethernet in order to make one computer talk to another. Actually, they based Ethernet on a communications system used in Hawaii called Aloha Net - a collision detection, collision avoidance (CDCA) communications system that allowed computers at schools on the islands to talk to one another via radio.
So the next time you use a Xerox machine, treat it gently. Give it a little pat on the back. It's the older cousin to all those PC's ... and cell phones ... and iPods ... and LCD TV's out there in the world that we all use without a second thought.
One way or another, it all goes back to PARC.