In 1978, while I was mastering the pull-up diaper and learning the intricacies of solid food, researchers at MIT unveiled DataLand, a touch-screen driven, immersive system for exploring large sets of data. Thomas Houston from The Verge dug up documentation on this retro system, and this excellent article traces a clear line from DataLand to Lisa to the Apple interfaces that rule our digital worlds today.
It's a fascinating read, including Bee Gees-era criticism of the finger-swipe page turn effect, gorgeous interface diagrams, and plenty of insight into the development of 'modern' user interface. It's also a great introduction to some of the personalities of that revolutionary era — if names like Bill Atkinson and Richard Bolt are unfamiliar to you, take a jump over to the site that inspired Houston's article in the first place: Andy Hertzfeld's folklore.org.
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