Your computer is crap

Xerox Alto
Xerox Alto

And now I have your attention, I will explain why.

The computer you see in this image is a Xerox Alto, a prototype computer that contained a graphical user interface, pointing device called a “mouse”, full A4 screen with a virtual “desktop”, it was connected to other computers using “ethernet” and could display print quality documents on its screen.

And it did this in 1973.

Now look at the computer on your desk. It contains exactly the same things, and does exactly the same thing. You control it with a mouse, it can display print-quality documents on its screen, is networked using the same ethernet. The only difference is in the looks and speed of the device.

The mouse was invented in the 1960s, as was the concept of hypertext, as demonstrated by Douglas Engelbart.

Then let’s look at the software we use on our computers. Our main pieces of software are wordprocessors and spreadsheets. The first spreadsheet was Visicalc on the Apple II, created back in 1979 and looks like this:

Visicalc on an Apple II
Visicalc on an Apple II

┬áIf you compare this to Microsoft Excel (because all the other spreadsheets such as Lotus 1-2-3 have died off) it’s remarkably identical. OK so Excel contains half a million extra features, and Windows Vista/Mac OS X has the benefit of 30 years of research and development, but the initial concept and idea are identical to those first prototypes created in the 70s.

We’ve not advanced at all. We’re just making variations on a theme, polishing innovative ideas until the sharp edges are all blunt and “user friendly”. We’re using 30 year old ideas and every year re-releasing them while claiming the latest ideas to be the next thing in computing.