Beginnings

In The Beginning….There Was Smalltalk (The First Graphical User Interface) And I Got To Use It

Smalltalk printout-

Smalltalk printout-

Sorting through old files the other day I came across a bit of computer history. I’m sharing it here because it had a bearing on me even getting interested in computers and also as a public archive since I doubt there’s much left anymore like what I’m posting here.

In 1981-82, my husband at the time and I were taken for a visit to Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) by a friend who worked in IT so that I could see this new way of using a computer that let one draw pictures on the screen (I was a freelance graphic designer at the time). We were welcomed by one of the employees, Pavel, who did the demo above and then turned me loose to play with this cool thing called Smalltalk.

At a time when “computer” meant large rooms of very expensive machines or a small black monitor with clunky green type, Smalltalk was a mindblower. DRAW with a computer? Really? Really.

Of course, those of you who are in IT or know the history of Apple are aware of the version of events in which Smalltalk was the precursor to the Mac interface that made computers easy to use “for the rest of us”. If you want to know more about that history and connection, here’s a account. For years, the story has been that Steve Jobs “stole” the concept of Smalltalk (and a lot more) after his own visit to PARC. Whether that’s true or not is outside the purview of this post, but you can read more here and here if you’d like.

Today I have a 3rd Gen iPad with a half dozen or more apps for making images. I use it as a sketchbook, as do some of my artist colleagues. A couple are even teaching classes and workshops on how to use an iPad as an art media. But in another time and place, here’s what one artist spent a happy hour creating on the first computer which had software that let one draw….

Smalltalk art 1

Smalltalk art 1

All of these were printed out for me on a small plotter. I can’t remember what I was drawing with, but it must have been a mouse.

Smalltalk art 2

Smalltalk art 2

Smalltalk art 3

Smalltalk art 3

Smalltalk art 4

Smalltalk art 4

I was a member of the Society of Creative Anachronism at the time and much into unicorns…

Smalltalk art 5

Smalltalk art 5

Smalltalk art 6

Smalltalk art 6

Smalltalk art 7

Smalltalk art 7

I’ve never forgotten that magical afternoon at PARC when, for me, computers and art came together for the first time.

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s