This July I flew to San Francisco and one of my stops was at the Computer History Museum. I wished upon visiting that I could have taken my students here over 13 years ago, when I was teaching computer applications or any of the other courses I once taught.
I wanted to share a few highlights I captured with my iPhone.
HyperCard came out in the mid-1980s as a new type of software development platform. It was designed to be easy for the end user to create databases of cards, using links, embedded graphics, and sounds. It was the precursor to today’s HyperStudio which I know a lot of teachers may know.
It was a remarkable piece of software created by the author of MacPaint, the photographer Bill Atkinson. It was ahead of its time as a precursor to the Web.
The Xerox Alto was the first GUI computer of note, and it was this computer that Jobs and company saw when they toured the Xerox labs at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). The computer had a white background on the screen, was formatted to the orientation of a printed page (tall), and used icons and a mouse to control the computer. The other device on the left is a chord input device, which allowed shortcuts by pressing down the “keys” (think like a piano) to recall common functions. Today keyboard shortcuts are likely the best equivalent.
I had never seen one up close before. It was not functional, however.
I learned to program BASIC (both Integer and Applesoft) on an Apple ][ microcomputer when I was in elementary school. My first Apple, however, was the //e, but my friend at the time owned this model. It is strange, perhaps, but just looking at that machine brought back vivid memories, smells, and feelings — of a time from my past as a kid. I can still feel what the keyboard was like. The Apple ][ was Apple’s first major financial success after the hand-built Apple 1 models.
This next computer is what I was really into, around 1984.
This is the Apple Lisa. Named after Steve Job’s daughter, it was Apple’s first GUI-based computer to use a mouse, an inverted (white) screen, icons, and the whole lot. It was on display in a computer store in Pittsburgh when I was in the 4th grade. I could never touch it, however, because the retail price was $10,000 and they didn’t let kids play with those. Less than a year after its launch, the Mac debuted as the “smaller” cousin. It of course took over the Lisa, which is seen by many as a flop.
And finally, Illustrator.
Before I ever used this software, I thought it was cool. Unlike the bitmap graphics that dominated computers for so long, this program would create vector art that could print smooth on a (new) laser printer. With it, you can make graphics that have no dots at all, and it became the software for graphic designers to create maps, logos, or anything that required professional output.
When I first visited San Francisco in 1991 with a friend, his uncle took us around Silicon Valley and at his house we played on his Mac with Adobe Illustrator 88. Soon after that trip, I got a copy and started my foray into desktop publishing with Illustrator, Photoshop, and PageMaker. Today I use the similar trio of software every day (Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign).
Beyond Apple and personal computers, the museum had a lot of old mainframes, punch card machines, Cray supercomputers, and a nice exhibit on video games. If you’re ever in the San Jose area, I recommend it.