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April 1973, the first operational Alto computer is completed at Xerox PARC.

The Alto is the first system to pull together all of the elements of the modern Graphical User Interface. 

3-button mouse.
Bit-mapped display.
The use of graphical windows.
Ethernet network.


1980: Three Rivers Computer Corporation introduces the the Perq graphical workstation.
1981 June: Xerox introduces the Star, the commercial successor to the Alto.

Notable features:
Double-clickable icons, overlapping windows, dialog boxes and a 1024*768 monochrome display.


1983 January: Apple introduces the Lisa.

Notable features: 
Pull down menus and menu bars.


Visi Corp releases Visi On, the first integrated graphical software environment for IBM PCs.
Microsoft announces their new "Windows" program for the IBM PC but does not release it until 1985.

Notable features:
Is supposed to have overlapping / resizable windows.


January 1984: Apple introduces the Macintosh.
September: Digital Research announces its GEM icon/desktop user interface for 8086- and DOS-based computers. It also was later ported to the Atari ST.

June: "window system X"  announced at MIT.
Versions 1-6 were monochrome only, and ran on DEC VS100's displays connected to VAXen and VAXstations 1 and 2. 
Versions 8-10 dealt with color, for the VAXstation II/GPX. X10 is the first version that saw widespread availability and use on many vendor's systems.
Version 11 was redesign for higher performance, more window management styles, extensibility and better graphics capability
1985: Geos released for Commodore 64 and later the Apple II. 
July:  Commodore introduces the Amiga 1000 with the Amiga Workbench Version 1.0.
August: Microsoft finally releases the first version of Windows.

Windows can not be overlapped, but are instead "tiled".
Windows are not allowed to cover an area at the bottom of the screen that is reserved for "iconized" programs.


1986: Apple threatens to sue Digital Research because the GEM desktop looked too much like Apple's Macintosh. Digital Research cripples the desktop application so Apple will not sue.

The new GEM desktop now has just two unmovable, non-resizable windows for file browsing.


March 1987 - Apple introduces the Apple Macintosh II, the first color Macintosh. 

Features: 640*480*256 color with 24 bit color card available.


Microsoft releases the second version of Windows, version 2.03. 

Finally has resizable / overlapping windows and new windowing controls.


Acorn releases "Arthur" for the Acorn computer, it is the basis for RISC OS. RISC OS 2 and 3 have a similar look, but an improved feel. 
September 1988: Apple releases GS/OS, a 16-bit operating system with a Macintosh-like GUI for the Apple IIGS.

October:  IBM releases OS/2 1.10 Standard Edition (SE) which added a graphical user interface called Presentation Manager. (OS/2 1.0  was text mode only!) The 1.10 GUI was written by Microsoft and looked like Windows 2. 

October: The NeXT Computer is released for $6500. It includes a 25 MHz '30 processor, 8 MB RAM, 250 MB optical disk drive, math coprocessor, digital processor for real time sound, fax modem, and a 17" monitor.
1990: Commodore releases Amiga Workbench 2 for the A3000.

Features: New 3d effects, a revised menu system and many other improvements.


May 1990: Windows 3.0 released by Microsoft

Features: Program Manager shell.


November: PC-GEOS released by GeoWorks.
Spring of 1992: IBM releases OS/2 Version 2.0, a true 32-bit OS.

Features a new "Workplace Shell", an object oriented user interface that is heavily integrated with the rest of the OS. 


March: Microsoft introduces Windows 3.1. The user interface is basically the same as Windows 3.0 but now includes their "multimedia" enhancements. 
September: Amiga Workbench 3 released for AGA Amigas.

Features: Images for backgrounds, color pallet remapping.


May 1993 Microsoft releases the first version of Windows NT, their 32-bit OS. They give it the version number "3.1" and use the same user interface they do for regular Windows 3.1. Made available for Intel, Power PC, Alpha, and MIPS systems.
1994: QNX Software Systems releases the first embeddable microkernel windowing system, the Photon microGUI.
1995: Microsoft introduces Windows 95 on August 24th. 
October: Be introduced BeOS at Agenda 96. The first version was designed to run on a custom multiprocessor system known as the "BeBox".  Later made available for Power PC and Intel systems.
1996: New Deal releases New Deal Office 2.5, which was formerly PC-GEOS. 
IBM Releases OS/2 Warp 4 with a significant facelift for the Workplace Shell.
Microsoft releases Windows NT 4.0 with the same user interface as Windows 95.
July 1997: Mac OS 8 is finally released. Selling 1.25 million copies in less than 2 weeks, it becomes the best-selling software in that period.
June 25, 1998: Microsoft releases Windows 98.

Features: Internet Explorer Web browser application takes over the role of the Windows shell, advertising right on the desktop, entire help system replaced by Internet Explorer.


November 22, 1998: Shane Brooks Releases 98Lite, an installer that removes or prevents the installation of Internet Explorer with Windows 98.

Features No Internet Explorer or advertising, all the hardware support of Windows 98, faster boot time, and the more responsive Windows 95 shell. 


March 1999 - Apple releases Mac OS X Server, a Unix based OS with their Macintosh GUI. 
June 1999 - RISCOS Ltd releases RISC OS 4 for RiscPC, A7000 or A7000+ machines.
January 5, 2000:  Apple announces Aqua, the new look for their upcoming MacOS X client. 
February 17, 2000: Microsoft Windows 2000 (AKA Windows NT 5) becomes available in stores. 

Features: The Internet Explorer web browser application finally takes over the Windows NT UI. 


October 25, 2001:  Microsoft releases Windows XP (AKA Windows NT 5.1)

Tons of eye candy. 
"Product Activation" tethers XP to the existence of the Microsoft corporation. 


April 24, 2003:  Microsoft releases Windows Server 2003 (AKA Windows NT 5.2 and for a time called "Windows.NET server")

Drops the eye candy.
Server-only release. 


I am limiting this timeline to systems that provide GUI services to other applications, this is why I am not including individual graphical DOS apps or older graphical programs such as Sketchpad .

I am also not listing each version of a GUI system unless a significant change has occurred in it. MacOS has kept the same basic user interface since Version 1 and is therefore only mentioned a couple of times. Microsoft, on the other hand thinks it is fun to make users learn a completely new interface every few years, so each of the Windows interfaces is listed. (Except for Windows ME which looked just like Windows 98 and 2000).

X could just about have it's own history page. There is no way I can list all of the different appearances of X here so I am just mentioning it's creation. The picture is much more recent and not of the original X.
The picture of NextStep is of a later version.
The picture of PC-Geos is from Geos Ensemble 2.X with the presentation manager look.
The picture of BeOS is from a later version.
The color Mac screen shot is of MacOS 7.5.5, although these machines shipped with earlier versions.
I have insufficient information about the history of Tandy Deskmate and the Apollo workstation to place them on this timeline.

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Copyright © 2002 Øyvind Haugland
Sist endret:  13 januar 2019

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