Archive for May, 2009

ENIAC programmer Jean Bartik

May 18, 2009

Do you recallBillede 1 the pictures of ENIAC programmers at work: moving plugs and setting switches while standing up and keeping track of the program on sheets of papers?

In a recent issue of Communications of the ACM (vol. 52, no. 1, p. 17) a one-page article A Pioneer Woman by Michael Ross appeared, featuring a very interesting project ENIAC Programmers Project run by Kathy Kleiman. Abeit short, the aticle is really interesting as it brings this famous chapter of computing history to (more) life.

Regarding user interfaces, the article discloses that there were no manuals available for the for the ENIAC programmers. So the programmers, among these Jean Bartik, “pored over its logical and electrical block diagrams and discussed design details with the male engineers and physicists who had created ENIAC.”

GUI/OS resource page

May 18, 2009

Several collegues have directed my attention to an interesting website
Operating System Interface Design Between 1981-2009. The website comprises a fine range of systems, and not only lists well-known systems like Xerox Star, Lisa, Mac, Amiga Workbench, and Windows, buts also less known ones like GEM, KDE, and GNOME. Regarding user interfaces, the website presents fine screenshots from all the systems. I find that the term Operating Systems is a bit misleading as the paper does not present the command line interfaces of UNIX, LINUX, etc. So I suggest you think of the site as a GUI history site.

Excellent introduction to computing history for computers scientists

May 18, 2009

Thomas Haigh published an excellent introduction to computing history URL some years ago. It addresses a large number of relevant aspects of computer and computing history, including the practice of historians work (compared to that of computer scientists), relevant sources, snippets of the history of the history of computing, different kinds of history areas, etc.

As the paper appears in an edited volume on using history in the teaching of computer science, the paper also carries a section on this relevant topic.

As to user interfaces, the paper carries nothing of particular interest. But user interface history is emebedded in the history of computing, this topic is very valuable.


Haigh, Thomas (2004): The History of Computing: An Introduction for the Computer scientist. In: Aspray, W. and Atsushi, A. (2004): (eds): Using History to teach Computer Science and related disciplines. Washington DC: Computing Research Association, 5-26.

Akera, Atsushi and Aspray, William (2004) (eds): Using history to teach computer science and related disciplines. Computing Research Association, Washington.  
The whole  volume can be downloaded in Pdf (note 1.7 MB,   309 pages)