Graphical User Interfaces

A local computer store in Albany, NY had gotten a Mac in stock and had it on display. Four of us got in a car and drove there to see it. When you first saw the Macintosh, you felt as though you were looking at an alien creature that had landed on the planet. The form factor was completely different from anything on the market. The screen was crisp and paper white with black characters (nearly every screen you looked at in 1984 was black with white or green characters). And then there was the mouse.

When you first held the mouse, you realized that it was shockingly easy to use. It took your brain about three seconds to understand how the mouse mapped to the cursor. But since no one had ever seen a mouse before, it was not obvious how “dragging” or “double clicking” worked. Once the salesperson showed one of us, however, we immediately understood it. At that point, you could use the machine. How do you delete a file? It was obvious — drag it to the trashcan. How do you move a file? Drag it from one place to another. How do you open a file? Click it. You did not even need to know the name of the application, which was essential in the PC world (so you could type it into the command line). Drawing on this beautiful, paper-white screen using the mouse was a dream. So was typing, because the Mac had actual fonts rather than block characters. What you typed looked like you were reading a book. It was absolutely, utterly amazing.