Myth: Copyright Theft, Apple Stole GUI from Xerox PARC Alto
Apple GUI Mimics Smalltalk from Xerox PARC Alto Computers
“Apple copied everything from Xerox.” This myth assumes that Most of the initial Apple GUI was copied from the GUI of Xerox PARC Alto Computer’s Smalltalk integrated programming environment. Thus Apple never innovated, and did not contribute to GUI innovations.
There is a substantial difference between the technology behind Apple’s GUI and the Xerox PARC Smalltalk GUI. Apple had to invent its own architecture. Drag-and-drop file manipulation came from the Apple Mac group, along with many other unique concepts.
Bruce Horn, one of the main designers of the Macintosh software who worked at Xerox for years before he worked at Apple. Here, he discusses the substantial differences between the Apple interface and the various interfaces on Xerox systems:
“There is a significant difference between using the Mac and Smalltalk. [Xerox PARC Alto Workstation] Smalltalk has no Finder, and no need for one, really. Drag-and- drop file manipulation came from the Mac group, along with many other unique concepts: resources and dual-fork files for storing layout and international information apart from code; definition procedures; drag-and-drop system extension and configuration; types and creators for files; direct manipulation editing of document, disk, and application names; redundant typed data for the clipboard; multiple views of the file system; desk accessories; and control panels, among others. The [Apple] Lisa group invented some fundamental concepts as well: pull down menus, the imaging and windowing models based on QuickDraw, the clipboard, and cleanly internationalizable software… The Mac and Lisa designers had to invent their own architectures.” 
In short, did Apple take Xerox PARC Alto computer Smalltalk and reverse engineer it to make a copy? No. In addition to compensating PARC for the demo (with pre-IPO Apple stock deal), Apple took the basic concepts demonstrated by PARC and invented the architecture that is now used by modern computers.
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