Have you ever wondered why your mouse cursor rests ever so slightly to the left? Chances are, that little arrow on an incline is so ubiquitous that you’ve never even thought twice about its 45-degree lean. As it turns out, there’s a very good reason for it. Or was, anyway, back in a more pixelated age.
Over on Stack Exchange, computer software developer Bart Gijssens revealed the following explanation of the slanted cursor’s origins in response to this question on its design.
This is the historical reason:
(concept drawing taken from document: http://bitsavers.trailing-edge.com/pdf/xerox/parc…)
The mouse, and therefore the mouse cursor, was invented by Douglas Englebart, and was initially an arrow pointing up.
When the XEROX PARC machine was built, the cursor changed into a tilted arrow. It was found that, given the low resolution of the screens in those days, drawing a straight line and a line in the 45 degrees angle was easier to do and more recognizable than the straight cursor.
As you can see below, the original, straight cursor was indeed much more difficult to pick out amongst the blocks of basic text.
And as Gijssens points out in a later edit, after Englebart created the left-leaning cursor, Steve Jobs borrowed it for his software followed by Bill Gates who borrowed it after him. At this point, we’ve just become so accustomed to our leaning (and still highly functional!) arrow that anything else would seem too bizarre. Besides, why mess with perfection?
On this day thirty years ago, Steve Jobs presented the new Macintosh to a roomful of Apple investors.
Apple’s computer would go on to put the power of technology in everyone’s hands, all the while changing the face of personal computing for decades to come, upending whole industries, challenging the status quo and eventually leading to the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Today, the company has taken over its own homepage with a gorgeous visual timeline of the thirty years of Macintosh innovations, paying tribute to the computer with a nicely done video, an interactive poll and other goodies…
The Apple.com homepage has been redesigned with a nice teaser graphics replacing the rotating product banners and the four thumbnail sections alongside the bottom.
The message reads:
Happy Birthday, Mac.
In 1984, Apple introduced the world to Macintosh.
It was designed to be so easy to use that people could actually use it.
And it came with a promise — that the power of technology taken from a few and put in the hands of everyone, could change the world.
That promise has been kept.
Today, we create, connect, share, and share, and learn in ways that were unimaginable 30 years ago.
Imagine what we can accomplish in the next 30 years.
And here’s Apple’s video, celebrating some of the pioneers and the “incredible impact they’ve made”, including musician Moby whom Apple also featured in early iPod videos.
Clicking the teaser leads to a special page of Apple.com offering a visual timeline of the Mac’s thirty-year history, ranging from the very first 1984 Mac to the PowerBook, the original iMac and its subsequent redesigns to the latest Retina MacBook Pro and the radically redesigned Mac Pro.
This is from the first pane of the timeline:
The one that started it all — the original Macintosh — wasn’t just a computer. It was a declaration that the power of the computer now belonged to everyone. At the time, most people didn’t even know how to use one.
But thanks to the simple graphical interface of the Macintosh, they didn’t have to. It was approachable and friendly, starting with the smiley face that greeted you. There were folders that looked like file folders and a trash can for throwing things away.
And with the click of a mouse, you could suddenly do the unimaginable. You could move things around on the screen, change the way they looked, combine words with images and sounds, and create like never before. A new era had begun.
Each clickable section reveals a story behind that era’s Mac model and offers a detailed overview of how it changed specific aspects of personal computing and what creative people like musicians, writers, architects and filmmakers did with it.
Apple Stores seems to have joined the celebration with some pretty nicely done Mac-themed window displays, have a look below.
Today’s Google Doodle celebrates what would have been the 107th birthday of computer pioneer Grace Hopper (1906-1992) just in time for the “Hour of Code” kicking off Computer Science Education Week.
Hopper created COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language,) the program that allows computer to communicate through language as well as numbers. She joined the Navy Reserve in 1943, when she was teaching mathematics at Vassar, and finally reached the rank of rear admiral in 1985. Hopper, who repeatedly un-retired, became the oldest woman in the armed forces at the age of 76.
Hopper is credited with coining the term “bug in the system” because of the time she actually found a bug in a computer. As TIME described it in 1984:
She gets credit for coining the name of a ubiquitous computer phenomenon: the bug. In August 1945, while she and some associates were working at Harvard on an experimental machine called the Mark I, a circuit malfunctioned. A researcher using tweezers located and removed the problem: a 2-in. long moth. Hopper taped the offending insect into her logbook. Says she: “From then on, when anything went wrong with a computer, we said it had bugs in it.”
(The moth is still under tape along with records of the experiment at the U.S. Naval Surface Weapons Center in Dahlgren, Va.)
She was also famous for her incredible work ethic and unique way of interpreting time. When teaching her students about nanoseconds, she would show them a length of wire that represented the distance electricity could travel in a nanosecond:
In her commencement speech to the Trinity College class of 1987, which was excerpted in TIME, she said:
There’s always been change, there always will be change . . . It’s to our young people that I look for the new ideas. No computer is ever going to ask a new, reasonable question. It takes trained people to do that. And if we’re going to move toward those things we’d like to have, we must have the young people to ask the new, reasonable questions. A ship in port is safe; but that is not what ships are built for. And I want every one of you to be good ships and sail out and do the new things and move us toward the future.
After a number of reports and a seemingly never-ending slew of complaints, Microsoft is officially bringing back the Start button with the upcoming release of Windows 8.1. As told by The Verge, the Start button will appear in both traditional desktop and Windows 8 views, but will not work in the way that long-time Windows users have become accustomed to — instead, selecting the button will bring you to the Windows 8 Start Screen or a new All Apps section. Similar functionality is technically already present in the latest version of Windows, which is currently activated by bringing your cursor to the bottom left corner of your screen.
Despite this, Microsoft was well aware of the flaws in its original design. Jensen Harris, director of the Windows User Experience Team at Microsoft, explained that “We knew we needed to change that [start tip] to the Windows logo.” He continued by saying “Once we had that there and we figured out that was the change we needed to make it was pretty straight forward to keep that same button in the same place in the task bar…it lends back a little bit of familiarity. It makes the whole PC work the same way.”
Along with the return of the Start button — which will be present by default and cannot be deactivated — Windows 8.1 will also add the option to boot straight to the traditional desktop veiw, as well as the ability to view the Windows 8 Start Screen with your desktop wallpaper in the background.
In a separate report, The Verge highlighted additional features that will be introduced in the upcoming version of Windows, including an improved lock screen and enhanced built-in search functionality, which will allow you to search across the web as well as your computer or tablet.
Another welcome change coming with Windows 8.1 will be additional Snap View configurations for “Metro”-style apps. For example, clicking a link from within an app will bring up a 50 /50 view, and opening a picture will result in a 40 / 60 view. Even better, individual apps can have more than one window, allowing users to view multiple webpages at once.
Skyrdrive will also be baked into the operating system, and the cloud storage option will be visible from both File Explorer and apps as a location to save or load files. The new Internet Explorer 11 will be included as well, which enables the option to sync browser tabs between Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8 devices. For tablet and convertible-PC users, the virtual keyboard will be the recipient of some added functionality.
Availability for Windows 8.1 has yet to be announced, but Microsoft intends on releasing a preview version of the operating system at its Build developer conference on June 26th.
Microsoft has officially released the final version of the latest Internet Explorer to Windows 7 users. The Internet Explorer 10 is available in 95 languages and Windows 7 users will all get the update to the latest version of IE automatically in the upcoming days but eager users are able to download it manually.
The IE 10 now offers better support for web standards like the latest CSS3, but the user interface for the Windows 7 version however remains similar to IE 9. So, the full-screen experience from the Windows 8 machine will not be available for the Windows 7 users.
If you are impatient, you can download the latest version of Internet Explorer from the official Microsoft website.