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Unknown_K
March 26th, 2014, 12:28 AM
What would we all be using these days if the GUI as we know it was never invented (no scalable fonts on screen, multiple windows, drag and drop, etc). Just curious if we never left the DOS era if we would be running DOS apps on current hardware mostly using keyboard commands and function keys to navigate multiple programs running in full screen mode. Would we all be using dumb terminals connected to text ASCHI spitting mainframes?

barythrin
March 26th, 2014, 09:57 AM
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│ I'd guess we'd just be doing ASCII/ANSI menus still? ║▓
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With ... well I can't remember now but either windows 95/98 or 3.x I toyed with making it a dos multitasking OS by replacing progman or something else in 9x with command.com so I had just a CLI and the ability to tab between them. But I'd just assume we'd have command windows and full screen applications with the ability to alt+tab and I'd be pretty happy.

edit:interestingly VB borks up my menu.. thought the code thing would get around that.

k2x4b524[
March 26th, 2014, 10:29 AM
naaaaaa, if the GUI didn't exist, i think dos would either have died out to unix or evolved into the powershell far sooner than it had. CP/M would still be around and floppy disks would still be main stream. Remember the main reason we need all the power is for servers and graphics anyway. Dump the graphics your left with servers, and dos or some command line shell.

krebizfan
March 26th, 2014, 11:04 AM
Eventually a GUI was going to take hold. Non-graphical text editors often gained multiple windows so you could move text from one section to another and see both. Drag and drop would have followed at some point once mice took hold though exact mechanics might have been different than what we do now. The influx of more artistically inclined people (inevitable as the number of computers increase) led to purchasers shifting to the more WYSIWYG applications. If legislation prohibited computers from shipping with a standard GUI that was open to development, the net result would have resembled the late-80s DOS applications with every company having their own exclusive GUI. Eventually, the designs would have converged as good ideas win out.

Net result: Either one application provider would dominate and become the defacto GUI or everyone would need much bigger hard disks to handle multiple GUIs.

Chuck(G)
March 26th, 2014, 11:16 AM
Light pens predate the mouse by quite a long time, so who needs a mouse? Even touchscreens (primitive) predate mice.

Multi-aperture text and split screens predate windows. Given the quality of some of the icons, I'm not sure if they're any use anyway. And graphical displays are very, very old.

On the other hand, on low-end systems, we might be using more natural language interfaces--and perhaps improving literacy. If I go to the local market, I don't have to draw a picture of a head of cabbage to get one, after all. And humans communicate verbally, by and large, not with pictures.

SpidersWeb
March 26th, 2014, 11:20 AM
What would we all be using these days if the GUI as we know it was never invented (no scalable fonts on screen, multiple windows, drag and drop, etc). Just curious if we never left the DOS era if we would be running DOS apps on current hardware mostly using keyboard commands and function keys to navigate multiple programs running in full screen mode. Would we all be using dumb terminals connected to text ASCHI spitting mainframes?

Data entry / typists / basic users running off dumb terminals, and professionals who need the performance get their own workstations.
Same as it was! Even with GUIs, this is still done - Citrix etc Terminals are still being used today - just they're SVGA now and not completely dumb :)

One thing I realized recently, that I don't remember seeing utilized, and that was 132 column mode - most VGA cards (even my WD 1988 cards) supported it and the extra real estate is very nice!

commodorejohn
March 26th, 2014, 11:47 AM
Light pens predate the mouse by quite a long time, so who needs a mouse? Even touchscreens (primitive) predate mice.
Some form of separate proportional-movement pointer control would've developed eventually. Light-pens and touchscreens aren't suitable for involved use because A. they require that you either hold your hand up in front of your face to touch a screen placed for viewing, or hunch over to view a screen placed for handling, and B. a human hand and stylus blocks out a lot more screen space than a mouse pointer. A joystick might've done for the purpose, but I suspect the mouse was the logical development for the purpose.


On the other hand, on low-end systems, we might be using more natural language interfaces--and perhaps improving literacy. If I go to the local market, I don't have to draw a picture of a head of cabbage to get one, after all. And humans communicate verbally, by and large, not with pictures.
Natural-language controls require more effort to achieve the same tasks. Humans communicate with other humans verbally, but verbal communication is not the most efficient way to do pretty much anything else besides communicating with other humans - ever tried to instruct someone on how to assemble a puzzle without using your hands?

MikeS
March 26th, 2014, 11:57 AM
What would we all be using these days if the GUI as we know it was never invented (no scalable fonts on screen, multiple windows, drag and drop, etc). Just curious if we never left the DOS era if we would be running DOS apps on current hardware mostly using keyboard commands and function keys to navigate multiple programs running in full screen mode. Would we all be using dumb terminals connected to text ASCHI spitting mainframes?Apples and oranges. You don't need a GUI to have multiple windows or scalable fonts etc. and as Chuck says graphic displays and printers, plotters, alternate input devices etc. were all around long before the mouse and the GUI, and I don't see the connection between GUIs and local vs. on line processing at all.

Chuck(G)
March 26th, 2014, 12:09 PM
Some form of separate proportional-movement pointer control would've developed eventually. Light-pens and touchscreens aren't suitable for involved use because A. they require that you either hold your hand up in front of your face to touch a screen placed for viewing, or hunch over to view a screen placed for handling, and B. a human hand and stylus blocks out a lot more screen space than a mouse pointer. A joystick might've done for the purpose, but I suspect the mouse was the logical development for the purpose.

If I read you correctly, you despise pencils and paper because after all, you have to hunch over it and your hand obscures what the pencil is doing. One thing that a mouse won't get you is immediacy. You're wiggling something at the end of your arm placed some distance away from the thing it's actually manipulating. This is good? Using arm movements for fine detail work, rather than finger movements? Sounds like a recipe for RSD to me.

Look at some of the 1960's CAD systems (Digigraphics would be a good one). A large CRT placed at about a 10 degree angle from horizontal with a fiber-optic light pen used to pick, drag or select. In 50 years, I suspect we might succeed in making the pen wireless. In other words, a direct evolution from paper and pencil. Draw something with a pen and see it materialize under the pen tip as you write. Amazing!

RSD from mice is still very much with us. A mouse is a very imperfect pointing device.



Natural-language controls require more effort to achieve the same tasks. Humans communicate with other humans verbally, but verbal communication is not the most efficient way to do pretty much anything else besides communicating with other humans.

So what's life about, then? One could make the claim that our current technological system makes communicating with machines has become more important than communicating with other humans. Judging from the political noise that we're bombarded with, I suspect that's the case today.

You tell him, Siri!

MikeS
March 26th, 2014, 12:26 PM
If I read you correctly, you despise pencils and paper because after all, you have to hunch over it and your hand obscures what the pencil is doing. One thing that a mouse won't get you is immediacy. You're wiggling something at the end of your arm placed some distance away from the thing it's actually manipulating. This is good? Using arm movements for fine detail work, rather than finger movements? Sounds like a recipe for RSD to me.Amen to that! I use a Toshiba M400 Portege laptop/tablet convertible originally running Tablet XP and now Win7 and much prefer the stylus over the touchpad or a mouse; once our fingertips evolve into pointy ends we'll have the same precision on our tablets of the future...
https://www.google.ca/search?q=toshiba+m400&biw=1152&bih=769&tbm=isch&imgil=numt-X_mV38aiM%253A%253Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fencrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com%252Fimages%253Fq%253Dtbn%253AANd9 GcRiTUv-lcP20sU6Hh8v2y6-dGAb3u32qCi_Xtf5GhSDOnqJb-Ix%253B400%253B319%253BzXfIkoXxRqrHvM%253Bhttp%252 53A%25252F%25252Fwww.tabletpcreview.com%25252Fdefa ult.asp%25253FnewsID%2525253D630&source=iu&usg=__ttTQMWJtfPtVamM0vKCd-VwdyFY%3D&sa=X&ei=MDczU6-TF9G_qQHmz4D4CQ&sqi=2&ved=0CD8Q9QEwAw

SpidersWeb
March 26th, 2014, 12:40 PM
I prefer the mouse, because with high sensitivity and resolution I can accurately position the cursor with very minimal movement.
But mice aren't practical for portable devices, so touch is certainly the best option there.

What would really need to change to make touch more common in the work environment, requires a change in furniture. You need the screen in a position where it's comfortable to touch, much like a piece of paper would be. I always find it odd watching my boss with his touch Windows 8 laptop lifting his entire arm just to click something.


Edit: whoops just realised how off topic this was

luvit
March 26th, 2014, 01:02 PM
GUI is so inevitable it's a tough theory to share. -- Compare graphical adventures and how they progressed prior to requiring Windows. (e.g. King's Quest VII for DOS).
So to the point of the OP, i can only envision Desqview, or a version of DosShell that would support multiple virtual terminals like Linux terminals (Alt-Fx).
But considering the advancement of how graphical DOS games appeared, I would foresee GUI menu systems designed per application.. fragmented ideas between each software company. They would be reinventing the wheel and copyrighting their work so no other company can easily mimick their successful menu style.

A standard GUI or not, once any potential multitasking would be overcome in a mainstream OS like DOS, the menu systems would be pretty frustrating to switch between.
This is where I would see Linux potentially be embraced by software companies if the other competing mainstream OS was still MS-DOS.

SomeGuy
March 26th, 2014, 01:25 PM
"What would we all be using these days if the GUI as we know it was never invented"

That is a very general question. GUIs as we know it are a combination of:

Appropriate input devices
Bit-mapped displays
Computing power to multi-task
Common user interface guidelines
Application integration or communication
A graphical paradigm or metaphor (desktop, raw windows, bunch of beginner buttons or tiles, etc)

The lack of some of these could still give us software similar to what we are familiar with.

For example, if we were stuck with character cell displays, but had sufficient computing power you could easily have a text-based windowing systems. Applications could still have standard interface elements, multi task, share data, and even point-and-click with a mouse.

That reminds me, some video cards like my Video 7 card actually supported a graphical mouse cursor in text modes. (essentially using an arrow shaped "sprite" floating over the text)

On the other hand, if you still had bit mapped displays, but take away appropriate input devices, common user interface guidelines, application integration, and the common desktop metaphor then you are left with.... Windows 8 :p

commodorejohn
March 26th, 2014, 01:33 PM
If I read you correctly, you despise pencils and paper because after all, you have to hunch over it and your hand obscures what the pencil is doing. One thing that a mouse won't get you is immediacy. You're wiggling something at the end of your arm placed some distance away from the thing it's actually manipulating. This is good? Using arm movements for fine detail work, rather than finger movements? Sounds like a recipe for RSD to me.
Paper and pencil (or display-and-stylus) is good for drawing because the user's action is directly analogous to the desired result; thus, it preserves that immediacy you mention (in fact, I've pretty much entirely gone back to traditional media for my drawing for exactly this reason.) Nevertheless, yes, it does have the downside of an arm and hand obscuring a good bit of the work area; it's just still a worthwhile tradeoff. But it's not remotely the most efficient or intuitive method for anything else. Control of arbitrary computer tasks in a graphical environment requires a certain degree of precision if one wants to make any kind of efficient use of screen space; a mouse is better-suited for this because it allows intuitive movement of a cursor without requiring that the cursor controller be situated in the same space as the display, so it can be placed in a more comfortable resting position, and because it allows fine precision with less movement.

And if you require full arm movements for precision positioning, you really should adjust your mouse sensitivity and work on getting the hang of moving it with the wrist and fingers.


So what's life about, then? One could make the claim that our current technological system makes communicating with machines has become more important than communicating with other humans. Judging from the political noise that we're bombarded with, I suspect that's the case today.
The point is that communicating with machines is much more easily accomplished through means other than speech or natural-language text entry. Machines are dumb - even when they're pretending not to be dumb, they're dumb - and although they perform much more complex tasks than they used to, they still don't do anything complex or nuanced enough that being able to control them with natural language would represent a significant improvement on much faster and easier simple controls. Until we reach the point where we have machines intelligent enough that, say, asking a computer to identify thematic similarities between the works of Marcel Proust and his contemporaries in other continental European nations could yield a meaningful result, I don't see that changing.

vwestlife
March 26th, 2014, 01:46 PM
The GUI and mouse were invented in the 1960s, so you have to go a long way back to change the history on that.

http://sloan.stanford.edu/mousesite/1968Demo.html

k2x4b524[
March 26th, 2014, 02:42 PM
You have one of those too? Sweet. The stylus with the 1440x1050 screen is a godsend, you can do everything with just that stylus. Mine has Windows 8.1 with 4gb ram. When I DO use it, it's stylus all the way. I could see how that can be that can be ported to dos or what have you. Didn't Compaq venture into this back into the 386 days with penabled dos abnd win 3.11? I think the world would be a very different place had the stylus and handwriting took over instead of the mouse. I view the lightpen as an evolution to the stylus, despite being out before, which leads me to ask a question. Could the light pen work on an LCD or plasma screen? I think the evolution if GUI hadn't taken hold would have allowed this, we may even have developed the advanced touchscreens we have now, but back in the 90's or maybe even earlier.


Amen to that! I use a Toshiba M400 Portege laptop/tablet convertible originally running Tablet XP and now Win7 and much prefer the stylus over the touchpad or a mouse; once our fingertips evolve into pointy ends we'll have the same precision on our tablets of the future...
https://www.google.ca/search?q=toshiba+m400&biw=1152&bih=769&tbm=isch&imgil=numt-X_mV38aiM%253A%253Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fencrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com%252Fimages%253Fq%253Dtbn%253AANd9 GcRiTUv-lcP20sU6Hh8v2y6-dGAb3u32qCi_Xtf5GhSDOnqJb-Ix%253B400%253B319%253BzXfIkoXxRqrHvM%253Bhttp%252 53A%25252F%25252Fwww.tabletpcreview.com%25252Fdefa ult.asp%25253FnewsID%2525253D630&source=iu&usg=__ttTQMWJtfPtVamM0vKCd-VwdyFY%3D&sa=X&ei=MDczU6-TF9G_qQHmz4D4CQ&sqi=2&ved=0CD8Q9QEwAw

Chuck(G)
March 26th, 2014, 02:48 PM
The trackball goes back to 1946, so what is a mouse, other than a shrunken trackball turned upside-down?

I haven't checked, but I believe the earliest uses for a CRT on a computer were for graphic, not text display, however crude.

My first experience with a mouse was schematic design on a PC XT back around 1985 (Schema SDT). After getting severe pain trying to do fine-resolution graphic placement and drawing, I eventually learned to use my left hand, something that I stick with today. Trackballs (and footdisks) are fine for gross stuff, but give me a really good light pen any day.

My vision of the perfect setup is a display that comprises the entire top of my desk with a wireless stylus to draw things.

MikeS
March 26th, 2014, 03:11 PM
Like most aspects of this field (and many others) the 'best' way very much depends on what you're doing and under what circumstances:

- For typing documents, working with spreadsheets etc. I prefer a normal keyboard/laptop and mouse, using shortcuts as much as possible.
- For drawing, browsing, etc., stuff that's mostly mouse (or touch) driven, I use tablet mode and the stylus, especially if I'm away from a desk.
- For entering or checking lists of numbers etc. while looking at or handling something else I often find speech input handy.
- And for browsing, reading, playing etc. while lying on the couch I plug it into the TV's VGA input and use a wireless keyboard/track ball combo.

Works for me.

Al Kossow
March 26th, 2014, 03:12 PM
My vision of the perfect setup is a display that comprises the entire top of my desk with a wireless stylus to draw things.

The Wacom Cintiq looks pretty cool (and expensive)

MikeS
March 26th, 2014, 03:15 PM
The Wacom Cintiq looks pretty cool (and expensive)A used Portege would be a lot cheaper and also uses Wacom technology; it is of course a little smaller, but my desk usually doesn't have much more visible area anyway... ;-)

xprt
March 26th, 2014, 03:24 PM
Maybe things have changed since 1985. I remember back then having one monitor for text and one for graphics and using a digitizer tablet with a big menu printed on it. I actually missed using a drafting table with pencil and paper.

But nowadays I still have to periodically lay out my own masks, unfortunately. As far as fine resolution, the default snap spacing is 0.1 micron and maximum resolution typically 0.001 micron. I would rather spend hours sitting in a relaxed position and make small movements with my wrist and fingers with a mouse than use a light pen. Since you can zoom in with the mouse wheel, and there are multiple snap modes, resolution is not an issue.

For 3D CAD, like SolidWorks for example, some people use SpaceBall type devices that have 6 degrees of freedom that includes tilting and rotating so they can navigate easier in 3 dimensions.

So I suppose it depends what kind of drawing you are doing.

I believe some fine artists like to use tablets with pressure sensitive styluses that allow them to use the brush techniques that they are used to.

Chuck(G)
March 26th, 2014, 10:42 PM
A used Portege would be a lot cheaper and also uses Wacom technology; it is of course a little smaller, but my desk usually doesn't have much more visible area anyway... ;-)

I want a desktop at least the size of a drafting table.

k2x4b524[
March 26th, 2014, 10:54 PM
they do have touchscreen computers that are that big.

http://www.geek.com/news/a-46-inch-multitouch-coffee-table-ties-your-living-room-decor-together-1557951/

Cost ya a 70 or 80 benjamins though

Caluser2000
March 26th, 2014, 11:01 PM
In 50 years, I suspect we might succeed in making the pen wireless. In other words, a direct evolution from paper and pencil. Draw something with a pen and see it materialize under the pen tip as you write. Amazing!!Isn't that already here?

Tor
March 27th, 2014, 12:01 AM
From my point of view (a programmer's) I wouldn't need a GUI in the bitmapped-images-graphics-icons form. I would want the step-up from serial TTY to full-screen VDU though. I worked for years with an excellent full-screen programmer's editor and I was very efficient with it. When I got my emulator running some years back I could re-visit that editor, and it was as good as I remembered. it. I don't need GUIs in today's sense, not really. My multi-desktop X Windows setup is mostly running xterm windows anyway, tons of them, and programming editors which look like terminals.. so the only difference from back then is how many I can run at the same time. Near the end of that era I used a terminal with 4 serial inputs. Then I switched to an X-terminal and got more windows. That's a step I liked, but it's built on the terminal concept anyway. And naturally the mouse isn't really needed for this. I mainly use the mouse to move focus from one window to another (no clicking involved).

-Tor

Ole Juul
March 27th, 2014, 03:38 AM
I'm late to this party. Sorry. My car wouldn't start.

There's so many comments that speak to me, so I'll just do a list.

OP: ... the GUI as we know it ...
The first thing that comes to mind is that "as we know it" is a very strange definition of graphical. As far as I'm concerned the green text on black background is a graphic. Adding ASCII and line characters, is also so. When text stopped being graphic I'm not sure, but it was probably right after we hit something and we all bumped our collective heads. Did anybody see stars? That's also a graphic.

Commodorejohn: Natural-language controls require more effort to achieve the same tasks.
I don't get that. One can type a simple command and a whole lot of stuff happens. Get mail, filter it into different directories, etc., etc. That's no different than clicking on something. They're both macros of some kind. Any input is a macro. I type "ls" or "dir" and all kinds of stuff happens. I don't have to actually enter the whole program by hand every time. Also, about what is natural language. I'd say that something like "copy thisfile overthere" is pretty natural. OK, so I'd actually use "cp", but doesn't that just look like texting? And that seems pretty natural to a lot of folk.

MikeS: You don't need a GUI to have multiple windows ...
Excellent point. In fact I suspect that nowadays it's the terminal users who use the most windows. I've seen a lot of garden variety GUI users with only a single window open.

Chuck(G): This is good? Using arm movements for fine detail work, rather than finger movements? Sounds like a recipe for RSD to me.
I've often seen people useing extremely large mice, such as the model that is most common. They put their whole hand right over the device and move their whole arm and sometimes much more of their bodies as well. I just watch with pity. This is like the disabled child who pokes themselves in the eye with a pencil because they either don't have the coordination, or the intelligence to find a better way. In either case, they require help. A healthy pearson would get a mouse that is small enough to fit between their fingers and set the "accelation" to 20x so they only need to move a few millimeters to get the pointer from one side of the screen to the other. The rest of their body would remail still. This is how we are taught to use a pencil, but many are not taught to use a mouse - apparently. Humans have the ability to do this kind of fine control by nature. That is why thick fingered violinists can play in tune, and surgeons don't cut your head off by mistake.

Spidersweb: I prefer the mouse, because with high sensitivity and resolution I can accurately position the cursor with very minimal movement.
Good for you. Minimal movement is the key. Unfortunately, using a mouse requires so much extra work. For one, you have to keep your eyes open and focus on the cursor, all the time keeping in mind the layout of the page so you can aim accurately. I know it doesn't feel like it, but there are a lot of brain cells, nerves, and small muscles involved in the whole procedure. Wouldn't your rather use those for something else, such as reading copy or thinking? I do realize though, that using the Gimp, or browsing can often be done with the one hand like that, and in a fairly relaxed manner. Life isn't all text.

Chuck(G): I haven't checked, but I believe the earliest uses for a CRT on a computer were for graphic, not text display, however crude.
I don't know that history either without checking, but note that an oscilloscope image is a graphic to most people's way of thinking.

MikeS: Like most aspects of this field (and many others) the 'best' way very much depends on what you're doing and under what circumstances: ...
Right on. It also depends on what concerns you. Some people like to develop speed, many don't care. Some people don't mind using lots of energy, others conserve. The thing about "text" though is that some people have an aversion to it. I'm guessing that's just because of lack of familiarity which of course is important too.

Tor: My multi-desktop X Windows setup is mostly running xterm windows anyway, tons of them, . . .
That's one of the great things about a multi-desktop window system.
Text rulz! ... (and it's a GUI)

vwestlife
March 27th, 2014, 05:29 AM
A healthy pearson would get a mouse that is small enough to fit between their fingers and set the "accelation" to 20x so they only need to move a few millimeters to get the pointer from one side of the screen to the other. The rest of their body would remail still.
Or you can just use an IBM TrackPoint (or one of its clones), giving you fingertip pointer control without even needing to take your fingers off of the home row of the keyboard. That's why many business-class laptops still come with it -- because touch typists love it.

Chuck(G)
March 27th, 2014, 08:18 AM
I'm late to this party. Sorry. My car wouldn't start.

MikeS: You don't need a GUI to have multiple windows ...
Excellent point. In fact I suspect that nowadays it's the terminal users who use the most windows. I've seen a lot of garden variety GUI users with only a single window open.

Split screens have been around on terminals for a long time--a two-window version, if you will. And I've seen those types of screens (different events happening on different parts of the screen) on operator displays harking back to the 1960s.



Chuck(G): This is good? Using arm movements for fine detail work, rather than finger movements? Sounds like a recipe for RSD to me.
I've often seen people useing extremely large mice, such as the model that is most common. They put their whole hand right over the device and move their whole arm and sometimes much more of their bodies as well. I just watch with pity. This is like the disabled child who pokes themselves in the eye with a pencil because they either don't have the coordination, or the intelligence to find a better way. In either case, they require help. A healthy pearson would get a mouse that is small enough to fit between their fingers and set the "accelation" to 20x so they only need to move a few millimeters to get the pointer from one side of the screen to the other. The rest of their body would remail still. This is how we are taught to use a pencil, but many are not taught to use a mouse - apparently. Humans have the ability to do this kind of fine control by nature. That is why thick fingered violinists can play in tune, and surgeons don't cut your head off by mistake.

Things are a bit better today with optical mice not requiring special mousepads over the old roller or optical mouse. But I dare you to set your mouse sensitivity such that working (using any of the current notation packages) an orchestral score, with say, 24 different parts, can be done without both fine movements and gross movements. In fact, there is a fairly large body of composers and arrangers who prefer to work with pencil and ledger paper because it's faster. The computerized transcription is left to low-wage underlings, usually hired by the publisher. I've tried trackballs, trackpads and several types of mice. A pencil still beats them.

If the mouse is the answer, I'd love to hear the question.

As always, thanks for your carefully crafted reply.

krebizfan
March 27th, 2014, 08:40 AM
Scalable fonts were going to happen. Maybe programmers wouldn't want it but there was a sizable publishing market using Compugraphic photographic fonts and if there was one thing the computer software manufacturers were noted for was chasing customers that spend large amounts.

Natural language: Games went from language parsers to having dedicated GUIs because writing a complete parser was hard. I just can't see anyone suffering through 20 years of Zork style annoyance just to manipulate files. Even today, people have to switches to using menus and buttons because the parsers still don't always produce the correct results.

Chuck(G)
March 27th, 2014, 10:01 AM
they do have touchscreen computers that are that big.

http://www.geek.com/news/a-46-inch-multitouch-coffee-table-ties-your-living-room-decor-together-1557951/

Cost ya a 70 or 80 benjamins though

Not quite. At that resolution, writing with a stylus on the 55" version would be like writing with a broomstick. But maybe, maybe we'll get it sometime in the future... ;)

xprt
March 27th, 2014, 10:11 AM
Reminded me of this:

Fox News Replaces Desks With Ridiculously Large Touchscreens (http://mashable.com/2013/10/07/fox-news-deck/)

MikeS
March 27th, 2014, 10:15 AM
Or you can just use an IBM TrackPoint (or one of its clones), giving you fingertip pointer control without even needing to take your fingers off of the home row of the keyboard. That's why many business-class laptops still come with it -- because touch typists love it.They can have it; I hate it.

MikeS
March 27th, 2014, 10:21 AM
...there is a fairly large body of composers and arrangers who prefer to work with pencil and ledger paper because it's faster. The computerized transcription is left to low-wage underlings, usually hired by the publisher. I've tried trackballs, trackpads and several types of mice. A pencil still beats them.

If the mouse is the answer, I'd love to hear the question.

As always, thanks for your carefully crafted reply.How about a digital pen? Is 14"x9.8" large enough?

Used to love mine until I upgraded Windows and they didn't have a new driver, but I see they're still around; may just have to get a new one. Looks like they even work in stand-alone mode now:

http://www.irislink.com/c2-2353-189/IRISNotes-2---Digital-Pen.aspx?adwp=GGS-IN-US&gclid=CPfh8Kuos70CFclDMgodH1wAGQ

http://www.amazon.com/Cross-CrossPad-CP41001-01-Portable-Digital/dp/B00000K1R3

Chuck(G)
March 27th, 2014, 11:42 AM
Maybe. It would be interesting to see how well this integrates with existing software. (For example, when I'm working with D or E sized drawings or orchestral scores (virtual 25" tall by 8.5" wide)).

I'll have a look. When I'm sketching things on my deskop I use one of those large deskpads with the tear-off sheets.

Ole Juul
March 27th, 2014, 01:38 PM
If the mouse is the answer, I'd love to hear the question.

:) I think that's one of my biggest criticisms, the adoption was market driven. Nobody asked a question.

The mention of TrackPoint is interesting. Yes, you don't have to take your hands off the keyboard, but Mikey hates it. Me too. It is not suitable for a typist because it works in a different time realm. Smooth - slow motion like. Suitable for when you're on LSD - or wish you were.

When it comes to communication in a language based world, the keyboard is still king. But we can probably all agree that there are indeed some things which are better done, indeed only done, with a pointing device. As Chuck(G) points out, you can't always get appropriate control with an overly sensitive mouse. I haven't tried one, but do think that for fine work the pad and stylus is probably the most controllable. They look very functional to me.

This thread is interesting, partly because the original question is not really being addressed. One aspect of that is that when we say GUI we seem to be talking about the use of a mouse. As I mentioned above, text is also a graphic. We are making some very limited assumptions when we say "GUI". So, what could have happened without a mouse? I think that in order to speculate on that we have to consider what (apart from mouse marketing) has driven the "needs" of computer users. In my opinion a lot of what we see in the modern GUI is decided by what some people thought was cool and that they could sell. That's fair enough, but things could have been different if people thought of computers as a way to get certain things done. We tend to think of the early text based programs as being somehow limited by that format. I would posit that the contemporary GUI is just as limited by its characteristics. Perhaps to envision what could have happened, or where we can go, we should think more about what we actually need to do.

Chuck(G)
March 27th, 2014, 02:11 PM
Ole, I hate to sound crass, but I suspect the reason for the windows GUI exists is because it was free. Had Xerox PARC patented it and enforced its IP rights, we may not have it even now.

Unknown_K
March 27th, 2014, 02:31 PM
While a graphical drag and drop for file management is useful, I had a much easier time using XTREE in DOS with a split screen moving files while never having to take my hands off the keyboard. Everything I run is pretty much full screen and I still use the alt-tab keys to this day to switch between apps. Ctrl-ESC to bring up the windows menu (Model M has no Windows keys). There are just a lot of things that are better done without having to use a mouse.

What the current GUI craze did was allow people who couldn't recall what keyboard shortcuts were in DOS to hunt around for an icon to click. It allowed the masses to use a computer. It also caused the birth of the GUI accelerating video card because more and more of the CPU's time was wasted moving pixels around instead of the must faster ascii characters.

Optical mice are ok, but back in the day people who did graphics work petty much used a precise trackball.

SomeGuy
March 27th, 2014, 02:48 PM
Like I mentioned earlier, "GUIs" are a combination of many different technological aspects, and separate innovations. Many of these would have come together eventually anyway, but it is interesting to wonder about some specifics such as:

- What if Xerox Parc had not happened?

That certainly inspired many aspects of Visi On and, as much as they might deny it, the Apple Lisa/Mac. No Xerox Star obviously.

- What if Steve Jobs had not been influenced by Xerox Smalltalk?

This page: http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?story=Busy_Being_Born.txt
Shows some early Lisa prototype photos that look very non-"gui".

- What if Microsoft had not been "inspired" by Xerox/Apple/Visi On to create Microsoft Windows?

In late 1983 Microsoft seemed really determined to get Windows out in the face of that competition, but it dragged on for years before an actual release. There was a brief period when Microsoft was considering axing Windows 2.x in favor of IBM OS/2. Had they been even more behind, Windows 3 could easily have never happened.

Similarly, without Windows at all, they almost certainly would have gone the OS/2 path. And who knows what kind of GUI would have developed if those two had continued to work together.

- What if Windows 8 had never happened?

The world would be a much nicer place, the grass would be greener, and desktop sales would not be as much in the gutter. :p

And Chuck raises an interesting point. If Xerox or similar had gone patent and lawsuit crazy back then things would have been a lot worse. It was already bad enough. A suit from Apple was why GEM 2.0 had to stop using overlapping windows in it's file manager.

Mike Chambers
March 27th, 2014, 02:48 PM
While a graphical drag and drop for file management is useful, I had a much easier time using XTREE in DOS with a split screen moving files while never having to take my hands off the keyboard. Everything I run is pretty much full screen and I still use the alt-tab keys to this day to switch between apps. Ctrl-ESC to bring up the windows menu (Model M has no Windows keys). There are just a lot of things that are better done without having to use a mouse.

What the current GUI craze did was allow people who couldn't recall what keyboard shortcuts were in DOS to hunt around for an icon to click. It allowed the masses to use a computer. It also caused the birth of the GUI accelerating video card because more and more of the CPU's time was wasted moving pixels around instead of the must faster ascii characters.

Optical mice are ok, but back in the day people who did graphics work petty much used a precise trackball.

You still don't have to take your hands off the keyboard in Explorer. ;)

Mouse is totally not required to work with it.

barythrin
March 27th, 2014, 02:48 PM
What about all the GUI patents that DID get applied for though? Didn't Microsoft try and patent the mouse arrow cursor and I think failed to patent a "window"? ..someone else claimed to have patented the scroll bar in the GUI. Perhaps they were all dismissed as too much impact to already existing GUIs though (not really up on my frustrational patent reading).

vwestlife
March 27th, 2014, 03:15 PM
You don't necessarily need a GUI in order to have a mouse, resizeable windows, pull-down menus, and dialog boxes, of course -- all of those elements were added to many text-mode DOS programs.

http://www2.lecad.si/~leon/software/gisel/doc/gisel01.gif

And of course, there have been GUIs without these elements -- such as iOS and Windows 8.

Unknown_K
March 27th, 2014, 03:36 PM
Yes, but every one of those menus can be activated by a keyboard shortcut and you can easily move around inside menus with the tab keys. Back then you could do anything from the keyboard and a mouse just made some thing easier while now you have to do most stuff with a mouse and are lucky if you can do that function from the keyboard.

tezza
March 27th, 2014, 03:37 PM
You don't necessarily need a GUI in order to have a mouse, resizeable windows, pull-down menus, and dialog boxes, of course -- all of those elements were added to many text-mode DOS programs.
....
And of course, there have been GUIs without these elements -- such as iOS and Windows 8.

Both very good points.

Tez

paul
March 27th, 2014, 06:21 PM
... I had a much easier time using XTREE in DOS ...

At work I had our 12-person engineering department workflow based around Xtree, AutoCAD 10 and Lantastic 4.1, all in DOS of course with all sorts of shortcut keyboard commands using Xtree's macro utilities. It might not have been nearly as attractive to onlookers as a Windows desktop but it was fast, efficient and reliable on a 486 with 4MB ram.

Moving from that directly into NT 3.51 circa 1995 was a big culture shock.

NeXT
March 27th, 2014, 07:55 PM
I do really like the thought that in an alternate time we could all have one terminal server in the basement and through wired or wireless connections we used terminals around the house to connect to the machine and go about our day.

http://i11.photobucket.com/albums/a166/ballsandy/Computer%20related/CRW_8012.jpg

I bet you good money the Minitel would of exploded in popularity all over the world. It was cheap and there was thousands of services for it. Hell, by the time they pulled the plug they had Facebook and Twitter services available for Minitel subscribers. I'm sure as technology advanced you would have terminals with switched modes for use on Youtube for example where you still had the ANSI layout but video would be overlayed on the screen using additional hardware in the terminal.

MikeS
March 27th, 2014, 08:43 PM
I do really like the thought that in an alternate time we could all have one terminal server in the basement and through wired or wireless connections we used terminals around the house to connect to the machine and go about our day. Isn't that what we've got now, except that instead of down in the basement the 'server' is up in the cloud...

Chuck(G)
March 27th, 2014, 09:38 PM
Mine's still in the basement.

Ragooman
March 28th, 2014, 02:47 AM
What I think is more significant than the GUI, what if the CRT was never invented.
If they never had the Geissler tube, Crookes tube before, what might have happened.
Would we still be using some kind of teletype or some derivative thereof after all these years.

Unknown_K
March 28th, 2014, 03:36 AM
At work I had our 12-person engineering department workflow based around Xtree, AutoCAD 10 and Lantastic 4.1, all in DOS of course with all sorts of shortcut keyboard commands using Xtree's macro utilities. It might not have been nearly as attractive to onlookers as a Windows desktop but it was fast, efficient and reliable on a 486 with 4MB ram.

Moving from that directly into NT 3.51 circa 1995 was a big culture shock.
We used 486 systems with XTREE, DesignCAD for DOS, and Windows 3.1 for office apps over Novell servers at work back in the day. I had fun running around the Cleveland, OH computer shops picking up parts for building machines with my boss when we needed upgrades. Nothing like hitting a Solon computer shop where everyone was Russian (most likely mob) and had Ferraris parked in the front.

Eudimorphodon
March 28th, 2014, 08:48 AM
What I think is more significant than the GUI, what if the CRT was never invented.
If they never had the Geissler tube, Crookes tube before, what might have happened.
Would we still be using some kind of teletype or some derivative thereof after all these years.

Assuming technology otherwise would have advanced at roughly the same rate then it's probably inevitable that some other sort of video screen would have arisen and taken the CRT's place in computers. The Scophony projection system of the 1930's was capable of resolutions similar to CRTs utilizing essentially the same mechanical workings as first generation laser printers, and would have made a perfectly good computer display. It might have stunted the development of computer graphics, perhaps, since the Scophony device is strictly a "raster based" system while most early computer imaging systems used vector displays because of the lower RAM memory requirements, but there are mechanical solutions for producing vectors. (Those projectors for laser light shows are a good example.) And of course once LEDs and LCDs came along they would supplement the mechanical systems the same way they did the CRT. Also, DLP projectors can be thought of as being "mechanical" televisions and they own most of the digital cinema market to this day.

(Some shipping products used combinations of LEDs and mechanical scanning to produce a display; the Nintendo Virtual Boy, for instance. These devices are almost exactly halfway between the Scophony TV and a fully solid-state display.)

The "missing CRT" scenario would sort of suck in other areas. Radar displays and ocilloscopes both get quite a lot harder.

Chuck(G)
March 28th, 2014, 09:46 AM
What I think is more significant than the GUI, what if the CRT was never invented.
If they never had the Geissler tube, Crookes tube before, what might have happened.
Would we still be using some kind of teletype or some derivative thereof after all these years.

Have you ever seen a mechanical oscilloscope? They existed. Basically done with mirrors. Today's LCDs and e-ink displays rely on none of the technology developed for CRTs. Gating or reflecting light is just as effective as actually producing it.

Doug G
March 28th, 2014, 09:58 AM
Back in the late 70's/early 80's I spent a couple years on site at a major hardware mfg maintaining their collection of DEC PDP/11 systems. One area I enjoyed visiting was the PCB design lab, they had 4 or 5 workstations, each with it's own PDP 11/34 w/CDC 80mb SMD and a huge (for the time, a 28 or more in) color displays and a huge digitizing tab. It was fascinating to watch a designer grab a bundle of color-coded board traces on a board layout screen, and drag them around on the board to reposition.

They also had a plotter to print layout designs, and as I recall some kind of interface to create etching mask negatives, and another output was a paper tape that was read in by the drilling machine.

At the time it was just such a different application from the "normal" PDP system, and just so cool to watch while in use! Almost as cool as their robotic automated warehouse runnin off a PDP 11/44

MikeS
March 28th, 2014, 12:09 PM
Have you ever seen a mechanical oscilloscope? They existed. Basically done with mirrors. Today's LCDs and e-ink displays rely on none of the technology developed for CRTs. Gating or reflecting light is just as effective as actually producing it.Still used for laser displays; cobbled one together myself a long time ago with tin foil glued to cone-less speakers.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Arduino-Laser-Show-with-Full-XY-Control/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NV2qS-9bOWo

Eudimorphodon
March 28th, 2014, 12:43 PM
Without CRTs we would have missed out on the Williams Tube (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Williams_tube), one of the coolest memory technologies ever.

If you dig deeper things start getting really complicated. If humanity had somehow missed grasping the technology behind the CRT what other fallout would there be? Electron guns are used in a lot of other things; if not for the Crookes' tube we wouldn't have the Klystron, without which we might not have radar, UHF, or microwave communications. More to the point, the CRT's ancestors pre-date thermonic valves (IE, basically predate "electronics") and research on them contributed heavily to the latter; it's valid to wonder if the entire basis for the the first half-century of the electronic age could have existed without CRTs being incidentally invented at some point along the line.

I suppose you can still save the question by positing that CRT-like things did exist but no one ever had the brainwave to use them as video displays. Otherwise you might find yourself having to imagine an alternative world where transistors were invented before tubes.

Chuck(G)
March 28th, 2014, 01:26 PM
Note that acoustic delay lines were used as well; Williams tubes had the advantage that they were random-access, but they were low-density and very finicky. Other non-CRT types of storage eventually came to rule the roost, core, thin-film, rotating magnetic storage, and so forth. The last gasp for CRT technology, I think, was EBAM--and that couldn't compete with other technologies. (I recall seeing a rack of the things in a hallway at CDC ADL, just before they were scrapped).

Vacuum tubes were directly tied to the development of the incandescent lamp, not CRTs.

Eudimorphodon
March 28th, 2014, 02:30 PM
Vacuum tubes were directly tied to the development of the incandescent lamp, not CRTs.

Perhaps, but nonetheless it seems to me like a long shot that something like the Geissler/Crookes tube wouldn't have been invented along the way. Both are the result of people playing with electrodes inside evacuated tubes and you end up with some not-insignificant gaps in technology if you ex-out the discovery of cathode rays. (A discovery that is probably the inevitable result of playing long enough with anything that falls into the category of "gas discharge lamp", which to some degree describes any "light bulb" that hasn't had the contents completely evacuated.) Heck, the concept of electron was discovered by playing with cold cathode Crookes tubes.

Parallel investigation into the "Edison effect" might have produced a similar theoritical results eventually but would the CRT still not have been invented? The first ones might have been hot cathode tubes based on thermonic emission instead of ionization (a technological advancement applied to CRTs in the 1920's) but wouldn't scientists trying to learn more about the properties of these "electron" things have built experimental apperatus that would lead to the same discoveries that make up the CRT? (IE, that it was possible to create and modulate directional "rays" of electrons, said rays could be deflected by magnetic fields, etc. Maybe they could somehow miss that electron beams can be practically used to excite phophorescence in a pigment coating?) Lacking these discoveries means you lose any possibility of inventing, well, lots of stuff. Like, for instance, the cavity magnetron. And really, how could anything remotely like modern computing possibly exist without microwave ovens? The nerd as we know it would be lost without them.

Chuck(G)
March 28th, 2014, 06:09 PM
I think that the CRT would have been inevitable, just from casual observation of the blue glow inside a vacuum tube being driven hard. Even as a boy, I was fascinated by the way the blue glow would move around in a 6L6G when I brought a magnet near. And then there were those 6E5 tuning indicators that pretty much have all of the essentials of a CRT in them. Isn't the old name for a Crookes tube "Cathode Ray Tube"? So while inevitable, the CRT was not essential to the development of computers. Indeed, before about 1960, the average computer would not be exposed to a CRT connected to a computer.

I could argue that electromechanical relays were more important to the evolution of the digital computer.

MikeS
March 28th, 2014, 06:41 PM
I could argue that electromechanical relays were more important to the evolution of the digital computer.As someone who started his data processing 'career' on machines built around electromechanical relays etc. I'm inclined to agree with you. They were programmable and introduced automated processes that had previously done manually with adding machines and primitive calculators, and the money that IBM, Burroughs etc. made from their sale and rental financed much of the research and development that ultimately led to modern computers. And don't forget Bell and their need to replace their huge 'internet' of electromechanical 'switches' and 'routers' with more reliable and cheaper alternatives and the contributions that came out of their Lab.

g4ugm
March 29th, 2014, 01:58 AM
One thing that Think folks have forgotten about is "Function Keys". These were really useful. I remember having a 24 PF keyboard and the PF keys would allow you to swap sessions, or do lots of things wuickly. IBM did produce a non-gui text based windows system which is still implemented on the latest zVM systems. There were also large screen terminals that allowed multiple session....

Ole Juul
March 29th, 2014, 02:45 AM
One thing that Think folks have forgotten about is "Function Keys". These were really useful. I remember having a 24 PF keyboard and the PF keys would allow you to swap sessions, or do lots of things wuickly. IBM did produce a non-gui text based windows system which is still implemented on the latest zVM systems. There were also large screen terminals that allowed multiple session....

I'm not code savvy enough to understand why those were mostly abandoned. I do use them to shift between terminals (one of which contains my X terminal) and also between my 10 desktops. Certainly if one was to use *NIX the same way as the old DOS, then you can shift between terminals and be running different stuff as the user of your choice in each one, and without a GUI. For those not familiar with UNIX, what I'm describing does not involve any particular command line skill involving a learning curve. It's just how it comes, out of the box.

To me computing is organized in a virtual grid with two axis like Lotus 123. I organize my programs and projects from left to right as well as "in and out" in layers. This gives a tremendous amount of power to my interface. Of course, it's only my personal way of doing it, but if others had gone in that direction, then we all would have had something other than what is commonly seen, and it would be much more advanced than what I can cobble together. I've ended up with this style precisely because I don't take kindly to suggestions from any OS vendors. It's my life, and I like to keep my personal sovereignty reasonably intact. :)

I've got a two session shifter on my DOS machine that I can invoke from the command line when I want, but rarely do. A tiny TSR allows me to move back and forth between a bunch of pages in the screen buffer. To me it's not just function keys, it's the ability to use overriding key combinations in any program. I have cut/paste which works easily with keyboard only, and unlike any GUI cut/past it works fully and completely anytime anywhere, even in screen buffers. (Still talking about DOS.) The same goes for a number of other functions. These are old utilities, and who know how far that whole way of computer operation could have gone with another 20 years of development and some more powerful hardware. It was moving ahead just fine before it got sidetracked.

Eudimorphodon
March 29th, 2014, 07:26 PM
I could argue that electromechanical relays were more important to the evolution of the digital computer.

I actually agree on that point; I suppose a better way to attack the original question might be something along the lines of "could the concept of a 'personal' or otherwise real-time interactive computer, what most people think of when they hear the word 'computer' today, exist without a video display technology?". It's just a somewhat interesting rathole to explore further if A: electronics as we know it could have realistically developed to the point of enabling the electronic computer without the CRT having been at least incidentally invented somewhere along the way, and/or B: even if we merely rule out CRTs as being the "winning" technology can we really imagine a world capable of making electronic digital computers that hasn't invented a decent television of some sort. (Or, likewise, if that world did have televisions that no one would ever think of hooking one to a computer.)

Chuck(G)
March 29th, 2014, 08:01 PM
Too many "ifs" for me to make a call. Note that the first interactive systems used Flexowriters, IBM Model B typewriters or Teletypes. Even the IBM S/360 had no CRT as standard equipment--just the 1052 console typewriter. Many operations had interactive systems, starting with Johnniac running JOSS. No CRTs there.

Heck, if we hadn't had television we might be better off today. Saying that a CRT is essential to today's interactive computing brashly ignores the fact that many sight-impaired people use computers just fine. As a matter of fact, I think the GUI really started getting in the way of opening the world of computing to the blind. Back in the punched card days, I worked with a blind programmer. He'd keypunch his own cards and read the output from cards. He did just fine.

Ole Juul
March 30th, 2014, 12:36 AM
Too many "ifs" for me to make a call. Note that the first interactive systems used Flexowriters, IBM Model B typewriters or Teletypes. Even the IBM S/360 had no CRT as standard equipment--just the 1052 console typewriter. Many operations had interactive systems, starting with Johnniac running JOSS. No CRTs there.

Heck, if we hadn't had television we might be better off today. Saying that a CRT is essential to today's interactive computing brashly ignores the fact that many sight-impaired people use computers just fine. As a matter of fact, I think the GUI really started getting in the way of opening the world of computing to the blind. Back in the punched card days, I worked with a blind programmer. He'd keypunch his own cards and read the output from cards. He did just fine.

Actually Chuck, I think the GUI got in the way of opening the world of computing to many sighted people as well. I think it limits the imagination.

Back when the SURVPC mailing list was active which was late 90's, I started to notice that quite a few of the members were blind. The list was dedicated to minimal computing and DOS. Many people refused to accept the Win3.1, and certainly not Win95, and most definitely not Win'98. They just didn't see any point in making things more complicated and buying powerful hardware. To people like me, that philosophy was a natural, but to blind people it was a necessity. I remember one evening I got a surprise call from some guy on the list who lived somewhere in the US. We discussed Compaq motherboards and how to fix something or other (can't remember). After getting into it for a while, I nearly dropped the phone when he happened to mention that he was blind. That was an eye opener for me. :)

Now that you mention printers as being a common way to get output from a computer, it makes me wonder if printing technology couldn't have evolved differently if we didn't have screens. Could some kind of printer show a temporary output without using paper? Could there be multiple printers with different purposes used at the same time? What is a printer?

The thing about computing is that we are currently stuck in a rut. What we do with them could have been different. I note that the largest part of the contemporary discussion about the internet centers around bandwidth and movies. We think of computers mostly as being visual entertainment. And the visual amusement is not just about movies either. Just look at a lot of web pages, and see how they don't contain more than a few bytes worth of text and the rest is smoke. Visual based games? Could we have done without them? I could. Movies? Hate em. I do think that text communication of some sort (twitter, e-mail, forums) is extremely important and probably inevitable. Spread sheets, and databases? Probably the same. Scientists wouldn't have missed the opportunity.

Humans, like some birds, are attracted to flashy items, and this can take precedence over more important things. For example (going back to the CRT) I noticed that when CGA came along, people were willing to trade colour for legibility. That was my first hint that the computer revolution was not primarily an information revolution. Of course information processing was inevitable, even fundamental, but when we say "IT" we may be deceiving ourselves about what is more important to us - our data brain, or our bird brain.

CP/M User
March 30th, 2014, 02:55 AM
I still do some command line stuff at work, and younger folk always watch to see what I'm doing, and are somewhat intrigued what I'm doing, so it would be great if some form of command line returns and bytes GUI on the Butt. :D

Chuck(G)
March 30th, 2014, 10:41 AM
Humans, like some birds, are attracted to flashy items, and this can take precedence over more important things. For example (going back to the CRT) I noticed that when CGA came along, people were willing to trade colour for legibility. That was my first hint that the computer revolution was not primarily an information revolution. Of course information processing was inevitable, even fundamental, but when we say "IT" we may be deceiving ourselves about what is more important to us - our data brain, or our bird brain.

No kidding. My first experince with CAD on a PC was Schema (schematic capture) on a PC XT. I was set up with CGA (640x200) and the standard 0.31 pitch monitor and I thought I'd gone blind. Swapped for a Taiswanese MGA Hercules clone and a 15" OEM surplus monitor and thought I'd gone to heaven. The lack of color didn't bother me one bit. Later, when I was shopping around for VGA setups for some machines, I used VGA monochrome monitors and saved a bundle and never missed the color.

Eudimorphodon
March 31st, 2014, 09:36 AM
Too many "ifs" for me to make a call. Note that the first interactive systems used Flexowriters, IBM Model B typewriters or Teletypes. Even the IBM S/360 had no CRT as standard equipment--just the 1052 console typewriter. Many operations had interactive systems, starting with Johnniac running JOSS. No CRTs there.

Yes indeed, most of the the early interactive machines used console typewriters, but it's also true that wasn't a conscious choice; it was a while into the development of modern computers before CRT-based terminals (particularly one positioned remotely from the host computer) that could store a page of text long enough for the user to interact with it were an even remotely affordable proposition compared to the cost of a modified typewriter. And, notably, at least one of the early landmarks of interactive computing, the MIT Whirlwind, was designed around the idea of being able to graphically plot information on a screen and allow the user to interact with it with a pointing device. So it's not as if the early computer pioneers weren't interested in doing graphics as soon as the technology would even remotely allow it.

Again to clarify, I'm not trying to suggest that computers would be "worthless" without video displays, nor even that people wouldn't even be using them (somehow) on a day to day basis if they were to exist in a world without any sort of video display technology, but would everyone have one on their desk (slash in their pocket), or would computers still be things that for the most part lived on the other side of a phone line? (Speech recognition certainly might be a more important "thing" in this alternative universe...)


Heck, if we hadn't had television we might be better off today.

If "television" is a bad thing because people (overwhelmingly) use it for stupid/trivial purposes instead of for education and enlightement isn't the printing press a bad thing too because much of what comes off it is trashy novels, comics, coffee table books, and pornography? (Last I saw the current number for what percentage of Internet bandwidth is being consumed by porn alone is something around 30%, and a depressing portion of the remainder is piracy and, yes, TV and movie streaming. Does that mean we'd be better off without the Internet?) Heck, the debut of commercial radio broadcasting in the 1920's was greeted with something of a moral backlash because of the "trashy" nature of the entertainment on offer. If there's one thing you can reliably expect human beings to do is to find ways to trivially misuse and waste whatever technology you stick into their hands. That doesn't mean said technologies are "useless".


Saying that a CRT is essential to today's interactive computing brashly ignores the fact that many sight-impaired people use computers just fine.

It's amazing what the blind can do (I know several blind, or nearly so, people myself), but it gets into an interesting head space to imply that sighted people would be somehow better off (morally?) if they were forced to limit their use of tools to those that don't absolutely require eyes. A rather large chunk of our brain is dedicated to processing visual information and eyes are the highest bandwidth sensor we have for acquiring data from the world around us. There are certain concepts that are more straightforwardly explained with the use of illustrations which unfortunately the blind aren't able to easily leverage; are the only good books the ones with no pictures? (*Any* pictures, period. Those drawings of triangles in the geometry textbook count, for instance. As do the illustrations in a copy of Gray's Anatomy.)

Without some sort of video display there are any number of uses that computers are used for that would be more difficult, to say the least. (Imagine CAD without it, and then ponder the difficulties of CAM without CAD. The modern manufacturing world crucially depends on those technologies and the state of the art in, say, the transportation and electronics fields might be firmly wedged somewhere in the late 1970's without them.) It's not "brashly ignoring the fact that the blind can make good use of computers" to point out that these applications exist and have done much to drive the state of the art of the technology. Computers that respond to teletypewriters or punchcard readers need a lot less in the way of RAM and CPU oomph than ones driving a 24 bit color megapixel displays; whether that display is being used to design a state-of-the-art particle accellerator or to fling virtual birds at virtual boards is sort of beside the point.


As a matter of fact, I think the GUI really started getting in the way of opening the world of computing to the blind.

This is indeed true; the state of the modern Internet alone is reaching the "shamefully exclusionary" point. However, it is also true that much of the blame lies not so much on the "GUI" per se but in control-freak tendencies on the part of content providers, whose excessive use of technologies like Javascript to impose rigid formatting and access controls can make it very difficult for screen reading software or text-only web browsers to access or extract the salient information. This isn't something I'm particularly thrilled with despite possessing at least semi-functional eyes.

(If we were all accessing the Internet through ASCII paper teletypes then I suppose this probably wouldn't be an issue, I'll grant that. But it turns into a slippery slope as soon as you tack a raster display of any form onto a computer. Imagine if we lived in a world without video displays but our "teletypes" evolve to allow dot-matrix facsimile printing; commercial online sources might only allow articles to be downloaded in a watermarked print-once graphical format, which would be nearly as unfriendly to the blind as JPEG.)

Chuck(G)
March 31st, 2014, 10:22 AM
Why a raster display? The first text-mode CRT display I used on a computer was vector-mode (nominally 64x64 text). There was a graphics mode, but there was no refresh buffer, so you had to redraw the 512x512 screen continuously--if you were too slow, it flickered badly.

Raster displays only became practical after fast, cheap memory was a reality. (Remember the Tek storage-tube terminals?) Recall that in the early 1970s, the only cheap memory for terminals was MOS shift register.

So, it becomes a huge chicken-and-egg problem. Cheap memory also made the affordable personal computer possible to a great extent.

mnbvcxz
March 31st, 2014, 11:54 AM
What if IBM had not decided to make a PC, the world would have carried on with CP/M, systems might have evolved to use speech I/O, A.I may have evolved to improve speech recognition and language translation.
Graphics was available as an option using GSX which would have evolved as far as necessary.

Eudimorphodon
March 31st, 2014, 11:59 AM
Why a raster display? The first text-mode CRT display I used on a computer was vector-mode (nominally 64x64 text)...

Well, in the context of my use of the word "raster" (which I used as a synonym for "bitmapped", which is arguably only semi-correct?) I was making an assumption that in a world without CRTs or *any other form of video display* bitmapped printing technology would probably be more widespread/cheaper than vector-based plotters. (The Pantelegraph from the mid-19th century is arguably a type of dot matrix printer, and it's relatively trivial to adapt a typewriter-style terminal mechanism into a something that can do raster-based imaging. Heck, if you have the patience of Job you can bang out decent-quality pictures using the "period" symbol on some old Daisywheel printers, all it takes is the ability to do fine carriage/printhead movements.) I suppose there's some gray area in there where you could imagine people using home computers with vector instead of raster displays (Maybe using Charactron (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charactron) tubes?), but as you point out there's a chicken-and-the-egg problem involved; if you have sufficient technology advancement to produce cheap home computers you've also probably reduced memory costs to the point of making raster-based video displays possible.

If we're still imagining a world in which CRT as a display device never existed but other forms of display are possible I can certainly imagine the use of vector-based displays based on vibrating mirrors, etc. The issues with refresh rate would be more acute, however, due both to lower frequency response (moving parts) and because you're not going to be able to use a long-persistence phosphor to help cover up your speed issues. (And I'm not at all sure how you could replicate the concept of a "storage tube" mechanically.) CRTs offer a uniquely good technological solution to tackling the problem of interactive vector graphics generation, which only emphasizes the importance of the CRT had to the development of (at least certain types of) interactive paradigms. If it'd never existed and the only choice for real-time graphics was between mechanical ocilliscopes and a (relatively) high-resolution mechanical television like a Scophony there may have actually been that much more development pressure on the technologies needed for raster displays.

MikeS
March 31st, 2014, 12:07 PM
>> Heck, if we hadn't had television we might be better off today.

If "television" is a bad thing because people (overwhelmingly) use it for stupid/trivial purposes instead of for education and enlightement isn't the printing press a bad thing too because much of what comes off it is trashy novels, comics, coffee table books, and pornography?

...If there's one thing you can reliably expect human beings to do is to find ways to trivially misuse and waste whatever technology you stick into their hands. That doesn't mean said technologies are "useless".I'd argue that "stupid, trivial and wasteful" uses did more to drive and finance technical development and 'progress' than any CAD/CAM applications.

Besides, trivial and wasteful are in the eyes of the beholder, so to speak. Granted, who knows what effect the constant exposure and trivialization of crime and blood & gore is having on our society, but I think anyone who boasts that they never watch TV is probably missing out on a heck of a lot of incredibly well done educational and documentary stuff from PBS, BBC etc., not to mention any kind of entertainment you could wish for.

This is indeed true; the state of the modern Internet alone is reaching the "shamefully exclusionary" point. However, it is also true that much of the blame lies not so much on the "GUI" per se but in control-freak tendencies on the part of content providers,... This isn't something I'm particularly thrilled with despite possessing at least semi-functional eyes. Amen to that; it's getting harder and harder to find the wheat in the chaff...

Chuck(G)
March 31st, 2014, 11:03 PM
I have proof (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGAxg7DoO6I) that the computer mouse was invented by Bell Labs 1955 or before! :)

Agent Orange
April 1st, 2014, 06:52 AM
I have proof (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGAxg7DoO6I) that the computer mouse was invented by Bell Labs 1955 or before! :)

Yeah - well maybe . . . I think it all goes back to Walt Disney while Bell Labs was still experimenting with 2 tin cans and some string. :lol:

xprt
April 1st, 2014, 08:03 AM
Yeah - well maybe . . . I think it all goes back to Walt Disney while Bell Labs was still experimenting with 2 tin cans and some string. :lol:

In case you thought it was science fiction, here is the real thing from the man himself:

http://techchannel.att.com/play-video.cfm/2010/3/16/In-Their-Own-Words-Claude-Shannon-Demonstrates-Machine-Learning

Complete with telephone relay computer and AT&T infomercial.
What would computing look like now if not for Claude Shannon?

Eudimorphodon
April 1st, 2014, 09:08 AM
Who needs GUIs when you have the Tully Toggle? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSwqnR327fk)

Agent Orange
April 1st, 2014, 09:47 AM
Complete with telephone relay computer and AT&T infomercial.
What would computing look like now if not for Claude Shannon?

Well it might look something like this: https://www.google.com/search?q=mk+38+gun+fire+control+system&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=j_k6U8frOsSV2QXQg4GwDA&ved=0CEYQsAQ&biw=1219&bih=544

The US Navy's Mk 38 fire control system. It was the heart and soul of the Iowa class battleship's armament compliment. A real computer without a mouse or display. The beast weighed about 3500 pounds or so and consisted of relays and watch-like gearing. It had the ability to drop a 16 inch shell on a target ship from about 18,500 yards with great accuracy.

MikeS
April 1st, 2014, 10:00 AM
In case you thought it was science fiction, here is the real thing from the man himself:

http://techchannel.att.com/play-video.cfm/2010/3/16/In-Their-Own-Words-Claude-Shannon-Demonstrates-Machine-Learning

Complete with telephone relay computer and AT&T infomercial.
What would computing look like now if not for Claude Shannon?Love it! Who's gonna build one?

MikeS
April 1st, 2014, 10:05 AM
Who needs GUIs when you have the Tully Toggle? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSwqnR327fk)Hey! I've got one of those Cinco MIDI Organizers! Mine's labelled A to D but it oughta work; anybody got a source for the Tully Toggle?

Chuck(G)
April 1st, 2014, 10:19 AM
It could be worse--when I was first experimenting with computer music on the Altair, I keyed the whole thing--program and melodies in through the front panel switches. I'd call someone and say "listen to this". They thought I was nuts--and they were right. :)

Eudimorphodon
April 1st, 2014, 10:36 AM
anybody got a source for the Tully Toggle?

Interestingly... I originally assumed that the computer in that video was a made up prop, but it seems to be a real HP 200 series technical desktop. (http://www.hpmuseum.net/display_item.php?hw=3) And the keyboard does indeed have a Tully Toggle. Anyone have any idea what it actually did? ;)

(EDIT: Aha! From a magazine ad for it: "... And since everything about this system is built for speed, we've developed a special rotary control knob that lets you edit programs, calibrate instruments, and control motor speed, all with fast analog inputs." So it's a GO FAST KNOB! Now I really want one.)

MikeS
April 1st, 2014, 10:44 AM
They thought I was nuts--and they were right. :)I expect we've all heard that more than once (and still do...)

xprt
April 1st, 2014, 10:49 AM
Interestingly... I originally assumed that the computer in that video was a made up prop, but it seems to be a real HP 200 series technical desktop. (http://www.hpmuseum.net/display_item.php?hw=3) And the keyboard does indeed have a Tully Toggle. Anyone have any idea what it actually did? ;)

(EDIT: Aha! From a magazine ad for it: "... And since everything about this system is built for speed, we've developed a special rotary control knob that lets you edit programs, calibrate instruments, and control motor speed, all with fast analog inputs." So it's a GO FAST KNOB! Now I really want one.)

We had a few of those computers where I worked in the '80s. They tended to buy HP computers for ATE systems since they had HPIB built in and HP BASIC worked well with HP test equipment.

As I recall, the knob was mainly used for scrolling. I'm sure it could be read programatically as well but nobody bothered.

Although the machine had nice bitmapped graphics, it lacked a GUI. It made use of function keys and displayed a function key menu on the bottom of the screen.

MikeS
April 1st, 2014, 10:52 AM
As I recall, the knob was mainly used for scrolling. I'm sure it could be read programatically as well but nobody bothered.

Although the machine had nice bitmapped graphics, it lacked a GUI. It made use of function keys and displayed a function key menu on the bottom of the screen.Wonder what it'd take to organize MP3s instead of MIDIs...

Eudimorphodon
April 1st, 2014, 12:15 PM
Wonder what it'd take to organize MP3s instead of MIDIs...

That sounds like a question for Analog-World Siri (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4WrPkKc2Wg).

CP/M User
April 1st, 2014, 02:56 PM
What if IBM had not decided to make a PC, the world would have carried on with CP/M, systems might have evolved to use speech I/O, A.I may have evolved to improve speech recognition and language translation.
Graphics was available as an option using GSX which would have evolved as far as necessary.

We might of been using Motorola 68000 based processors these days instead of Intel perhaps. In the early days IBM was just one of the companies which were using 8088 Processors, there were other companies making computers with those processors in them though, though another link in the chain could have been Zilog with it's Z8000 based processor.