GUI Gallery

Using the middle mouse button to bring up the save box

  • Graphical User Interface Gallery is a superb web project that is gathering screen shots of major GUIs over the last 20 years or so
  • The RISC-OS computers (RISC-OS 2 and 3) were my introduction to GUI based computers. The Archimedes 310 and my own A3000 (for which I paid a small fortune in 1992 money) were ‘monotonous’ in Jeff Raskin’s sense – there was either just one or a very small number of ways of doing things like saving a file. This meant that children in primary school (a major market) could learn to use the computer very quickly.

The GUIdebook has spotted the peculiarity of the RISC-OS save box – there was no menu on the window, no visible representation of the method of saving a file at all. You clicked the middle mouse button over any application window to bring up the Save As dialog box. You were then forced to drag the resulting icon to a filer window to save the file.

The ‘menu’ button (and the absence of a window bar menu) was blamed at the time for the demise of the Acorn computer – schools in the mid 90s were involving parents far more, and had devolved budgets. What Neal Stephenson once referred to as ‘the army of balding Dads’ who ‘know about computers’ were drafted into schools to help with purchasing and replacement of IT equipment.

Such people knew Dos and Windows 3.11, and they could never work out how to save a file on the Acorn computers because of the absence of window menus and the ‘hidden’ menu button on the three button mouse. So the ‘expert’ had to ask a 7 year old how to perform a trivial operation like saving a file…. and schools started to buy ‘industry standard’ computers!

I’m not sure how seriously this was meant to be taken at the time – it was a USENET post – but I know that a lot of schools and Colleges went over to PCs in the early 1990s. I only began to take Microsoft and Windows seriously when Windows 95 came out – it took very little time to habituate to the new system.

End of nostalgia.

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