Last updated at 12:57 pm UTC on 16 January 2006
My own impression of what happened is:
Randy Smith at Xerox Parc came up with a very cool Smalltalk application called
ARK - The Alternate Reality Kit. You could do simple physics experiments in it
and even change the physical laws of that virtual universe. He had great
looking buttons that looked 3D with grayscale borders and even the text looked
like it was embossed in the buttons. There were tools like launchers and
sliders, objects like 3D balls and there were special factory objects
representing classes were you could get copies of all the previously mentioned
goodies (users didn't much care for these, however, since it was simpler to
copy another on-screen instance of the object you wanted - this was the
original inspiration for Self). The pointer looked like a hand hovering over
the alternate realities and when you picked up objects they woud cast a shadow
on the ground so you could see you were holding it.
Not too many people were familiar with this work until Randy published
"Experience with the Alternate Reality Kit: An Example of the Tension Between
Literalism and Magic" in IEEE Computer Graphics & Applications, Sep 1987, pp.
42-50. I don't know if those who created the NeXTStep GUI for Steve Jobs were
familiar with this, but if not it is amazing how much they looked like each
When a lot of companies (led by DEC, if I remember correctly), wanted to kill
Sun's OpenLook GUI (not happy to have made us adopt the icky X11 infrastructure
instead of NeWS), they decided to make their Motif system visually compatible
with the Windows look and feel in order to get Microsoft to join their little
group. But they decided to spice it up a little and copied the 3D look from
NeXTStep for window borders, buttons, and control panels (not for menus, for
some reason). When Windows 3.0 came out, it was compatible with this Motif
style as promised. Later Silicon Graphics showed how to do 3D right in their
Irix OS GUI.
Of course, you shouldn't trust my memory any more than I do ;-)
P.S.: in case you missed the moral of this tale - Morphic, having descended
from ARK, has more of a right to the 3D look than any other GUI out there
Randy Smith was one of the creators of Morphic. He does all sorts of cool stuff for Sunlabs, read about it at http://www.sun.com/research/people/randy/.
Notice how Steve Jobs name comes up again when he starts Next and needs a new GUI. Steve's smart, he knows that the well hasn't run dry. Maybe one day he'll get his hands on Morphic.
Bert Freudenberg says:
"The ultimate reference for this is here