Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jobs, Gates and GUI

I find technology and the men and women that develop it fascinating. Specifically, Steve Jobs (Apple) and Bill Gates (Microsoft) capture my imagination. Recently, I came across an interesting confrontation between these two titans. At the center of the conflict was something called Graphical User Interface or GUI. I know, it sounds complicated, but stick with me here, its really not. You already know all about GUI and this is an interesting story...let me continue.

Back in the early days, computers could only generate and display small green (or gray) letters on a dark screen (if you are old like me, you'll remember this). The user controlled a computer by entering a "command prompt"...something like C:/config, (stuff like that). Computers could not display pictures, graphics, banners, etc...just boring little green letters (or gray).

Enter a genius (no, not Steve Jobs or Bill Gates)...In the late 1970's Xerox Company (yes, the copier company) developed a computer operating system that used a mouse and something called bit-mapping to command the computer. All the user had to do was move the mouse's arrow to an icon and click. Yes, you're right, this is the same system we use today to command a computer. This mouse driven system is called a Graphical User Interface system. I told you, this was easy...stick with me.

OK, lets get back to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. In 1979 Steve Jobs was invited to visit a Xerox Development Lab where he saw the revolutionary GUI (Graphical User Interface) in operation for the first time. Xerox's system wowed Jobs. He immediately assigned his Apple Engineers the task of duplicating the GUI to be used on Apple's new Macintosh Computer.

In 1984 the Macintosh made history when it was released with Apple's version of Xerox's Graphical User Interface.

OK, now to Bill Gates, so stick with me here...

The following year Gates' was running his small software development company named Microsoft. Microsoft did some work for Apple in those days so Gates and Jobs knew each other. Shortly after the release of the Macintosh, Bill Gates released his own Graphical User Interface operating system called Windows. When Steve Jobs found out he was furious.

Stick with me here, this gets good...

The anger Jobs called Gates to his office (remember in those days Jobs was a big timer and Gates was a small timer). According to Gates, during the meeting Jobs lambasted him for developing Windows and accused him of stealing Apple's Graphical User Interface Technology.

"I trusted you", Jobs screamed, "and now you're stealing from us!". Gates took all of Jobs' fury until he could stand not more...Finally, he looked Jobs straight in the eye and calmly said..."Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”

File this under great lines.

Steve Jobs never forgave Gates for developing Windows and the relationship between Microsoft and Apple ended with discord, a fact that had a wide impact on the future development of computers.

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