Every time you interact with your computer, smart phone, or game console using a system of on-screen buttons, icons, and other interface elements to do so, you’re experiencing one of the miracles of modern computing: the GUI (Graphic User Interface).
Early computers had no GUI; users were limited to interacting with the machine via command line interface wherein they typed out the commands they wanted the computer to perform in text format. This arrangement worked well enough for skilled computer programmers and very dedicated computer hobbyists but it was a usability nightmare for anyone outside of the computer industry. GUIs solved that problem by linking commands and actions to a graphic-based interface–instead of typing in a command to run a program, for example, you could simply click an icon that represented the program you wished to run.
Although GUIs were demonstrated by computer pioneers and development groups throughout the 1960s and 1970s–Douglas Englebart famously demonstrated a precursor to modern GUIs as well as a primitive computer mouse in 1968–it wasn’t until the 1980s that computers began shipping with GUIs preinstalled. Since them computers and other electronic devices have evolved to the point that end users need never even look at the command line unless their interests steer them in the direction of a more intimate computing experience.
- By Jason Fitzpatrick on 12/27/12