Last week I worked on migrating a number of sites from the Digital Media Lab at the Bard Graduate Center over to Reclaim Hosting. One of the things I enjoy about doing migrations for folks is a get to see what they are working on. I fell down the rabbit hole of the history of computer user interface design with the brilliant Interface Experience exhibit that was produced for the 2015 exhibit The Interface Experience: 40 Years of Personal Computing. The exhibit was curated by Kimon Keramidas, then Assistant Professor and Director of the Digital Media Lab—now a professor at NYU.
I learned more about the “Osborne effect” a term which refers to the unintentional flattening of current sales by the premature announcement of future products. This is what killed the Osbourne “luggable” computer. I learned about Aldus Pagemaker, the first software of its kind that gave birth to the term “Desktop publishing.” I then got sucked into the early history of interface design at Xerox Parc, in particular the Office Alto. I was struck by the commercial for the Office Alto that seems fairly consistent with our vision of a sophisticated computer system 40 years later. And the nod in the following commercial to AI and the Siri-like future we currently inhabit is pretty amazing. How did they know?!