Myth: Copyright Theft, Apple Stole GUI from Xerox PARC Alto

Friday, March 5, 2010
By OP Editor

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Apple GUI Mimics Smalltalk from Xerox PARC Alto Computers

Myth:
“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.

Fact:
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.” [5]

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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Tags: Analysis, Apple, Legal, Myths, Prototype, Technology

12 Responses to “Myth: Copyright Theft, Apple Stole GUI from Xerox PARC Alto”

  1. Dave52

    “Did Apple Stole Xerox PARC GUI Intellectual Property Without Permission?”

    1. By definition, all stealing is without permission, else it wouldn’t be stealing.

    2. “Did Apple Stole”: Grammar checker, anyone?

    1
  2. prak

    Dude, this is a great little bit of de-bunking, but your atrocious composition and grammar mean that I can’t send anyone here. They won’t believe anything written so poorly could be credible!

    Do you need some assistance working out the kinks in your writing?

    2
  3. bazjapan

    So can we say Apple copied the ideas already in place at xerox then going on to later refine them? Seems like a normal process to me. Why are we apple users so brainwashed into thinking that Jobs et al were/are somehow above all. That they are God like and free of any wrong doing. That their ideas are exclusive and if they are not their own, they really should be credited with them anyway. In my opinion, Apple have become a fairly ruthless bunch that support open standards when it suits and generally speak in ‘double speak’. That said they do make cool stuff, but so do other companies! Thanks

    3
  4. Monarky

    Oh…. I see! You’ve got a hidden agenda to keep the truth off this site! Very Lame and you’ll lose with your mis-information in the end!!!

    4
    • Let’s see. References include New York Times, Motley fool. So sure, information from those sites are completely wrong. Not.

      Or perhaps someone cannot handle the truth?

      4.1
  5. brrry

    copying with or without consent doesn’t change anything.
    still not apples invention.

    5
  6. brrry

    Did Apple steal the idea?
    No
    Did Apple copy the idea?
    Yes
    Yes, Apple Paid for the rights to use it but it does not mean they invented it.

    6
    • Apple did invent various aspects of the modern GUI, as explained in the article such as “drag and drop”.

      One thing that Apple does well is bringing abstract concepts and technology to the masses.

      6.1

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