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This now legendary, abstract 1-bit view of Silicon Valley was displayed after selecting About this Mac in the first edition of Macintosh GUI. The picture was also present in next versions of Mac OS, although hidden as an easter egg. See how other systems introduce themselves.

Address book
Apple Computer Inc. is so nice (or so vain?) that it includes its own wherebouts in Mac OS X Panther’s address book. Is this the rule or the exception? Check it out.

While most of the other features got upgrades after upgrades, Windows calculator (here in Windows 3.0, 95 and XP) received only dusting and tiny facelifts. Is this true for other operating systems? Be sure to check out.

The whole calculator for Commodore 64 GEOS takes the same amount of space as just three and a half buttons for Solaris 9’s calculator. Are these David and Goliath of GUI adding machines? Find out for yourself.

Colour selector
Let’s count the number of ways you can specify a colour. Red, green, blue? Hue, saturation, brightness? A named list? In reality, GUIs use many more methods to let the user choose the desired colour. One example is... a box of crayons from Mac OS X Panther. Be sure to check out the others.

Command prompt
“Greetings, professor Falken.” Well, not exactly, but most of the GUIs indeed have command-line interfaces, for those used to communicate with computers using strange, cryptic messages. Check out how surprisingly different can simple command prompts be.

Just one look at desktops from Windows 1.0, Windows 95 and Windows XP simultaneously can tell more about the evolution of GUIs and graphic hardware than hours of studying specifications. You can also check out desktops from other operating systems.

The infamous Dock in Mac OS X is a feature that you can either love or hate. Having its roots in NeXTSTEP, Dock features much more eye candy, while trying to combine the functions of both application launcher and switcher.

The help system for Apple II’s GS/OS 5 was so simple – seven windows in total – that we can reproduce it here in its entirety. As GUIs grew more and more complicated, so did the help windows, evolving into huge, slow, Internet-driven monstrosities. Check it out yourself.

Red Hat Linux 9 shows some funny, if geeky jokes during its installation. Check out which other GUIs try to entertain the users and which merely update their progress bars.

It’s kind of funny how Microsoft tries to convince you that the new operating system is worth your money after you already bought it. Check out and compare all the marketese that is shown during installation in Windows and other GUIs.

Login screen
After the GUI introduces itself, it is usually your turn to reciprocate. Compare all the ways you can arrange two simple text controls for login and password.

Media player
Spot 1000 differences between Media Player in Windows 3.1 and its equivalent in Longhorn Milestone 5. It is obvious that current GUIs are much more into multimedia than those designed for earlier, office PCs. Witness the evolution yourself.

Mouse settings
Many preference panels for mouse input provide a drawing of an actual mouse, and it is quite interesting to see all the different approaches taken by different GUIs.

Open file
File selector dialogs in both System 1 and Windows 1.0 looked and behaved very primitively. In time, with thousandfold increase of number of files available to the user, file opening dialogs evolved into bigger and way more complicated features.

The Run command is a one-line equivalent of a CLI window. How many ways are there to present the user with one line of text and one or two buttons? Find that out for yourself.

The complete Control Panel for first Macintosh System, designed by Susan Kare, consisted of only one, feature-packed window. Some of the controls certainly required some imagination, but one might miss the simplicity while looking at today’s vast GUI settings.

Shutdown complete
“You may now switch off your Macintosh safely.” “It is now safe to turn off your computer.” “The computer is now ready to be switched off.” Welcome to what probably is the most boring GUI feature of all times. Check out all the variations and see if at least one company tried to be more creative.

Shutting down
The screens informing that Windows is shutting down (here: Windows 95, 98, XP Professional and Longhorn 4015) are so nicely done, one can’t happen but wonder whether it is so that user will be more eager to quickly relaunch the system again.

Start menu
Windows used Start menu to launch applications and give access to most important features since its 1995’s release. Every subsequent version of Windows brought some changes to it. Check out what were the additions and what mechanisms other GUIs use to launch applications.

Start menu
It took Windows six years to go from a relatively simple Start menu in Windows 95 to one containing more than three times as many items in Windows XP. Is that the price of progress, or can application launching be done in some other way?

Trash can
We’re seeing it happening over and over again. Mac OS 3.0 vs. 8.0, Mac OS X 10.1 vs 10.3 (both pictured), Windows 3.0 vs. 95, Workbench 1.0 vs. 2.0... Each time the GUI starts with white, and then goes metallic. You can usually see the effect throughout the whole interface – looking around at trash cans might be a good start.

Welcome splash
This is how four different operating systems (Mac OS 9, Mac OS X 10.3, Red Hat 9 and Amiga’s Workbench) look while launching. Check out how other GUIs say “coming right up!”

Welcome splash
This is how four different operating systems (Rhapsody DR2, GeoWorks Ensemble 2.0, Whistler 2257 and Amiga OS 2) look while launching. Check out how other GUIs say “coming right up!”

Welcome splash
This is how four different operating systems (BeOS R5, Mac OS 8.0, OS/2 Warp 4 and Solaris 9) look while launching. Check out how other GUIs say “coming right up!”

Welcome splash
This is how four selected editions of Windows (2.03, NT 4.0 Workstation, 98 and 2000 Advanced Server) look while launching. Check out how different versions of Windows and other GUIs say “coming right up!”

Welcome splash
This is how four selected editions of Windows (1.01, 3.1, 95 and XP Professional) look while launching. Check out how different versions of Windows and other GUIs say “coming right up!”

Wrong password
GUIs weren’t always so forgiving as Windows XP when you typed in an incorrect password. And they haven’t always warned you when you accidentally pressed Caps Lock. Check out how other systems react to password-related mistakes.

Copyright © 2002-2006 Marcin Wichary, unless stated otherwise.