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Application Types

Drawing programs:

Much of the current technology was demonstrated in Sutherland's 1963 Sketchpad system. The use of a mouse for graphics was demonstrated in NLS (1965). In 1968 Ken Pulfer and Grant Bechthold at the National Research Council of Canada built a mouse out of wood patterned after Engelbart's and used it with a key-frame animation system to draw all the frames of a movie. A subsequent movie, "Hunger" in 1971 won a number of awards, and was drawn using a tablet instead of the mouse. William Newman's Markup (1975) was the first drawing program for Xerox PARC's Alto, followed shortly by Patrick Baudelaire's Draw which added handling of lines and curves. The first computer painting program was probably Dick Shoup's "Superpaint" at PARC (1974-75).

Text Editing:

In 1962 at the Stanford Research Lab, Engelbart proposed, and later implemented, a word processor with automatic word wrap, search and replace, user-definable macros, scrolling text, and commands to move, copy, and delete characters, words, or blocks of text. Stanford's TVEdit (1965) was one of the first CRT-based display editors that was widely used. The Hypertext Editing System from Brown University had screen editing and formatting of arbitrary-sized strings with a lightpen in 1967. NLS demonstrated mouse-based editing in 1968. TECO from MIT was an early screen-editor (1967) and EMACS developed from it in 1974. Xerox PARC's Bravo was the first WYSIWYG editor-formatter (1974). It was designed by Butler Lampson and Charles Simonyi who had started working on these concepts around 1970 while at Berkeley. The first commercial WYSIWYG editors were the Star, LisaWrite and then MacWrite.


The initial spreadsheet was VisiCalc which was developed by Frankston and Bricklin (1977-8) for the Apple II while they were students at MIT and the Harvard Business School. The solver was based on a dependency-directed backtracking algorithm by Sussman and Stallman at the MIT AI Lab.

Computer Aided Design (CAD):

The same 1963 IFIPS conference at which Sketchpad was presented also contained a number of CAD systems, including Doug Ross's Computer-Aided Design Project at MIT in the Electronic Systems Lab and Coons' work at MIT with SketchPad. Timothy Johnson's pioneering work on the interactive 3D CAD system Sketchpad 3 was his 1963 MIT MS thesis. The first CAD/CAM system in industry was probably General Motor's DAC-1 (about 1963).

Video Games:

The first graphical video game was probably SpaceWar by Slug Russel of MIT in 1962 for the PDP-1 including the first computer joysticks. The early computer Adventure game was created by Will Crowther at BBN, and Don Woods developed this into a more sophisticated Adventure game at Stanford in 1966. Conway's game of LIFE was implemented on computers at MIT and Stanford in 1970. The first popular commercial game was Pong (about 1976).

Gesture Recognition:

The first pen-based input device, the RAND tablet, was funded by ARPA. Sketchpad used light-pen gestures (1963). Teitelman in 1964 developed the first trainable gesture recognizer. A very early demonstration of gesture recognition was Tom Ellis' GRAIL system on the RAND tablet (1964). It was quite common in light-pen-based systems to include some gesture recognition, for example in the AMBIT/G system (1968). A gesture-based text editor using proof-reading symbols was developed at CMU by Michael Coleman in 1969. Bill Buxton at the University of Toronto has been studying gesture-based interactions since 1980. Gesture recognition has been used in commercial CAD systems since the 1970s, and came to universal notice with the Apple Newton in 1992.


The FRESS project at Brown used multiple windows and integrated text and graphics (1968). The Interactive Graphical Documents project at Brown was the first hypermedia system, and used raster graphics and text, but not video (1979-1983). The Diamond project at BBN (starting in 1982) explored combining multimedia information (text, spreadsheets, graphics, speech). The Movie Manual at the Architecture Machine Group (MIT) was one of the first to demonstrate mixed video and computer graphics in 1983.


The first 3-D system was probably Timothy Johnson's 3-D CAD system (1963). The "Lincoln Wand" by Larry Roberts was an ultrasonic 3D location sensing system, developed at Lincoln Labs (1966). That system also had the first interactive 3-D hidden line elimination. An early use was for molecular modeling. The late 60's and early 70's saw the flowering of 3D raster graphics research at the University of Utah with Dave Evans, Ivan Sutherland, Romney, Gouraud, Phong, and Watkins. Also, the military-industrial flight simulation work of the 60's - 70's led the way to making 3-D real-time with commercial systems from GE, Evans&Sutherland, Singer/Link.

Virtual Reality and "Augmented Reality":

The original work on VR was performed by Ivan Sutherland when he was at Harvard (1965-1968). Very important early work was by Tom Furness when he was at Wright-Patterson AFB. Myron Krueger's early work at the University of Connecticut was influential. Fred Brooks' and Henry Fuch's groups at UNC did a lot of early research, including the study of force feedback (1971). Much of the early research on head-mounted displays and on the DataGlove was supported by NASA.

Computer Supported Cooperative Work:

Doug Engelbart's 1968 demonstration of NLS included the remote participation of multiple people at various sites. Licklider and Taylor predicted on-line interactive communities in a 1968 article and speculated about the problem of access being limited to the privileged. Electronic mail, still the most widespread multi-user software, was enabled by the ARPAnet, which became operational in 1969, and by the Ethernet from Xerox PARC in 1973. An early computer conferencing system was Turoff's EIES system at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (1975).

Natural language and speech:

The fundamental research for speech and natural language understanding and generation has been performed at CMU, MIT, SRI, BBN, IBM, AT&T Bell Labs and BellCore.