Operating System Interface Design Between 1981-2009

A Graphical User Interface (GUI for short) allows users to interact with the computer hardware in a user friendly way.

Over the years a range of GUI’s have been developed for different operating systems such as OS/2, Macintosh, Windowsamiga, Linux, Symbian OS, and more.

We’ll be taking a look at the evolution of the interface designs of the major operating systems since the 80’s.

I should mention that this article showcases only the significant advances in GUI design (not operating system advances) and also not all of the graphical user interfaces and operating systems existing today.

The first GUI was developed by researchers at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in the ’70s. This research opened a whole new era of computer graphic innovations.

The first personal computer which used a modern graphical user interface was the Xerox Alto, developed in 1973. This was not a commercial product and was intended mainly for research at universities.




Xerox 8010 Star (released in 1981)

This was the first system that was referred to as a fully integrated desktop computer including applications and a GUI. It was known as “The Xerox Star”, later renamed “ViewPoint” and later again renamed to “GlobalView”.

Xerox 8010 Star
Xerox 8010 Star, Source: toastytech.com


Apple Lisa Office System 1 (released in 1983)

Also referred to as Lisa OS, which in this case is short for Office System. It was developed by Apple with the intention of being a document processing workstation.

Unfortunately this workstation didn’t last, it was killed by Apple’s Macintosh operating system that was more affordable.

There were upgrades to Lisa OS, Lisa OS 2 in 1983 and Lisa OS 7/7 3.1 in 1984, that upgraded the system itself, but not the graphical user interface.

Apple Lisa 1
Apple Lisa OS 1, Source: GUIdebook

Apple Lisa OS 1
Apple Lisa OS 1, Source: GUIdebook


VisiCorp Visi On (released in 1984)

Visi On was the first desktop GUI developed for the IBM PC. This system was targeted towards big corporations and came with a high price tag. The GUI made use of a mouse, it had a built-in installer and help system and it didn’t use icons.

Visi On
VisiCoprt Visi On, Source: toastytech.com

Visi On
VisiCoprt Visi On, Source: toastytech.com


Mac OS System 1.0 (released in 1984)

System 1.0 was the first operating system GUI developed for the Macintosh. It had several features of a modern operating system, being windows based with icons. The windows could be moved around with the mouse and files and folders could be copied by dragging and dropping onto the target location.

Mac OS 1
Apple Mac System 1.0, Source: toastytech.com


Amiga Workbench 1.0 (released in 1985)

When first released, Amiga was ahead of its time. The GUI included features such as color graphics (four colors: black, white, blue, orange), preemptive multitasking, stereo sound and multi-state icons (selected and unselected).

Amiga Workbench 1.0
Amiga Workbench 1.0, Source: GUIdebook

Amiga Workbench 1.0
Amiga Workbench 1.0, Source: GUIdebook


Windows 1.0x (released in 1985)

In this year Microsoft finally caught up with the whole graphical user interface craze and released Windows 1.0, its first GUI based operating system (although no one would dare to refer to it as one). The system featured 32×32 pixel icons and color graphics. The most interesting feature (which later was omitted) was the icon of the animated analog clock.

Windows 1
Microsoft Windows 1.01, Source: makowski-berlin.de

Windows 1
Microsoft Windows 1.01, Source: makowski-berlin.de


GEM (released in 1985)

GEM (Graphical Environment Manager) was a windowing style GUI created by Digital Research, Inc. (DRI). It was initially created for use with the CP/M operating system on the Intel 8088 and Motorola 68000 microprocessors and was later developed to run on DOS as well. Most people will remember GEM as the GUI for the Atari ST computers. It was also used on a series Amstrad’s IBM compatible computers. It was the core for Ventura Publisher and a few other DOS programs. The GUI was also ported to other computers but did not gain popularity on them.

Source: Wikipedia


1986 – 1990


IRIX 3 (released in 1986, first release 1984)

The 64-bit IRIX operating system was created for UNIX. An interesting feature of this GUI is the support for vector icons. This feature was built into the GUI long before Mac OS X even existed.

Silicon Graphics IRIX 3.0, Source: osnews.com


GEOS (released in 1986)

The GEOS (Graphic Environment Operating System) operating system was developed by Berkeley Softworks (later GeoWorks). It was originally designed for the Commodore 64 and included a graphical word processor, called geoWrite and a paint program called geoPaint.

Source: Wikipedia


Windows 2.0x (released in 1987)

In this version, the actual management of the windows had significantly improved. The windows could be overlapped, resized, maximized and minimized.

Windows 2
Microsoft Windows 2.03, Source: guidebookgallery.org

Windows 2
Microsoft Windows 2.03, Source: guidebookgallery.org


OS/2 1.x (released in 1988)

OS/2 was originally co-developed by IBM and Microsoft, but in 1991 the two companies split up, with Microsoft incorporating the technology in its own Windows GUI and IBM developing OS/2 further. The GUI used in OS/2 was called “Presentation Manager”. This version of the GUI only supported monochrome, fixed icons.

Os 2 1
Microsoft-IBM OS/2 1.1, Source: pages.prodigy.net

Os/2 1
Microsoft-IBM OS/2 1.1, Source: pages.prodigy.net


NeXTSTEP / OPENSTEP 1.0 (released in 1989)

Steve Jobs came up with the idea to create the perfect research computer for universities and research labs. This idea later evolved into a startup called NeXT Computer Inc.

The first NeXT computer was released in 1988, however significant advances were made in 1989 with the release of the NeXTSTEP 1.0 GUI, which later evolved into OPENSTEP.

The GUI’s icons were bigger (48×48) and it introduced more colors. The GUI was initially monochrome, but version 1.0 started supporting color monitors too. This screenshot gives you have a peek into what would become the modern GUIs.

Nextstep 1
NeXTSTEP 1.0, Source: kernelthread.com


OS/2 1.20 (released in 1989)

The next minor version upgrade of the GUI showed slight improvements in many areas. The icons looked nicer and the windows were smoother.

Os 2 12
OS/2 1.2, Source pages.prodigy.net


Windows 3.0 (released in 1990)

By this version, Microsoft had realized the real potential in GUI’s and started to significantly improve them.

The operating system itself supported standard and 386 enhanced modes, which made use of higher memory capacity than 640 KB and hard disk space, resulting in the ability to use higher screen resolutions and better graphics, such as Super VGA 800×600 and 1024×768.

Also, Microsoft hired Susan Kare to design the Windows 3.0 icons and to add a unified style to the GUI.

Windows 3
Microsoft Windows 3.0, Source: toastytech.com

Windows 3
Microsoft Windows 3.0, Source: toastytech.com


1991 – 1995


Amiga Workbench 2.04 (released in 1991)

Many improvements were made to this version of the GUI. The color scheme changed and a 3D look was introduced. The desktop could be divided vertically into screens of different resolutions and color depths, which nowadays seems a little odd. The default resolution of Workbench was 640×256, but the hardware supported larger resolutions too.

Amiga Workbench 2
Commodore Amiga Workbench 2.04, Source: guidebookgallery.org


Mac OS System 7 (released in 1991)

Mac OS version 7.0 was the first Mac OS GUI which supported colors. Subtle shades of grey, blue and yellow were added to icons.

Macos 7
Apple Mac OS System 7.0, Source: guidebookgallery.org

Macos 7
Apple Mac OS System 7.0, Source: guidebookgallery.org


Windows 3.1 (released in 1992)

This version of Windows included TrueType fonts which were pre-installed. This effectively made Windows a functional desktop publishing platform for the first time.

Previously, it was only possible to achieve such functionality in Windows 3.0 using the Adobe Type Manager (ATM) font system from Adobe. This version also contained a color scheme named Hotdog Stand, which contained bright hues of red, yellow and black.

This color scheme was designed to help people with some degree of color blindness see text/graphics on the screen easier.

Source: Wikipedia


OS/2 2.0 (released in 1992)

This was the first GUI that was subjected to international acceptance, usability and accessibility testing. The entire GUI was developed using object-oriented design. Every file and folder was an object which could be associated with other files, folders and applications. It also supported drag and drop functionality and templates.

Os 2 2
IBM OS/2 2.0, Source: toastytech.com

Os 2 2
IBM OS/2 2.0, Source: toastytech.com


Windows 95 (released in 1995)

The user interface was completely re-designed since version 3.x. This was the first Windows version where a small close button was added to each window.

The design team gave states (enabled, disabled, selected, checked, etc.) to icons and other graphics. The famous Start button appeared for the first time.

This was a huge step forward for Microsoft regarding the operating system itself and the unified GUI.

Windows 95
Microsoft Windows 95, Source: guidebookgallery.org

Windows 95
Microsoft Windows 95, Source: guidebookgallery.org


1996 – 2000


OS/2 Warp 4 (released in 1996)

IBM released OS/2 Warp 4 which brought a significant facelift to the workspace.

Icons were placed on the desktop, where custom files and folders could also be created. The shredder appeared which was similar to Windows’ Recycle Bin or Mac OS’s Trash, except it deleted the file or folder instantly and didn’t store any additional copies for later retrieval.

Os 2 Warp 4
IBM OS/2 Warp 4, Source: toastytech.com

Os 2 Warp 4
IBM OS/2 Warp 4, Source: toastytech.com


Mac OS System 8 (released in 1997)

256 color icons were the default in this version of the GUI. Mac OS 8 was one of the early adopters of isometric style icons, also called pseudo-3D icons. The platinum grey theme used here became a trademark for future versions of the GUI.

Macos 8
Apple Mac OS 8, Source: guidebookgallery.org


Windows 98 (released in 1998)

The icon styles were almost the same as in Windows 95, but the whole GUI could use more than 256 colors for rendering. Windows Explorer changed almost completely and the “Active Desktop” appeared for the first time.

Windows 98
Microsoft Windows 98, Source: toastytech.com


KDE 1.0 (released in 1998)

This is how the KDE team described the project upon releasing version 1.0: “KDE is a network transparent, contemporary desktop environment for UNIX workstations. KDE seeks to fill the need for an easy to use desktop for Unix workstations, similar to the desktop environments found under the MacOS or Window95/NT. A completely free and open computing platform available to anyone free of charge including its source code for anyone to modify.”

Source: Wikipedia


BeOs 4.5 (released in 1999)

The BeOS operating system was developed for personal computers. It was originally written by Be In in 1991 to run on BeBox hardware. It was later further developed to take advantage of newer technologies and hardware such as symmetric multiprocessing by utilizing modular I/O bandwidth, pervasive multithreading, preemptive multitasking and a custom 64-bit journaling file system known as BFS. The BeOS GUI was developed on the principles of clarity and a clean, uncluttered design.

Source: Wikipedia


GNOME 1.0 (released in 1999)

GNOME desktop was mainly developed for Red Hat Linux, later it was developed for other Linux distributors as well.

Gnome 1
Red Hat Linux GNOME 1.0.39, Source: visionfutur.com


2001 – 2005


Mac OS X (released in 2001)

In early 2000 Apple announced their new Aqua interface and in 2001 the company released it with their brand new operating system called Mac OS X.

The default 32 x 32 and 48 x 48 icons were changed to big 128 x 128 anti-aliased and semi-transparent icons.

Lots of criticism followed after the release of this GUI. Apparently users were not quite ready for such a big change, but soon enough they adopted the new style and today this GUI represents the basis of all Mac OS X operating systems.

Mac osx 1
Apple Mac OS X 10.1 Source: guidebookgallery.org


Windows XP (released in 2001)

As Microsoft tends to change their GUI completely with every major operating system release, Windows XP was no exception. The GUI itself is skinnable, users could change the whole look and feel of the interface. The icons were 48 x 48 in size by default, rendered in millions of colors.

Windows xp
Microsoft Windows XP Professional, Source: guidebookgallery.org


KDE 3 (released in 2002)

Since version 1.0, the K Desktop Environment improved significantly. They polished all the graphics and icons and unified the whole user experience.

Kde 3
KDE 3.0.1, Source: netbsd.org


2007 – 2009 (current)


Windows Vista (released in 2007)

This was Microsoft’s response to their competition. They also included quite a lot of 3D and animation. Since Windows 98, Microsoft has always tried to improve the desktop. With Windows Vista they released widgets and a somewhat improved replacement of the Active Desktop.

Windows Vista
Microsoft Windows Vista, Source: technology.berkeley.edu


Mac OS X Leopard (released in 2007)

With their 6th generation, Mac OS X system Apple, once again improved the user interface. The basic GUI is still the Aqua with its candy scroll bars and platinum grey, blue colors. The new GUI features a more 3D look, with the 3D dock and lots more animation and interactivity.

Mac osx Leopard
Apple Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, Source: skattertech.com


GNOME 2.24 (2008)

GNOME put a lot of effort into creating the themes and artwork into v2.2.4 as their aim is “to make your computer look good”. They ran a competition to collect some of the most intruiging desktop backgrounds that their contributors have produced for use in v2.24.

Source: gnome.org


KDE (v4.0 Jan. 2008, v4.2 Mar. 2009)

Version 4 of K Desktop Environment produced many new improvements to the GUI such as animated, smooth, efficient window management and support for desktop widgets. The icons size are easily adjustable and almost every design element is much easier to configure. Some of the most noticeable changes include new icons, themes and sounds, which are provided by the Oxygen Project. These icons are more photorealistic. It is definitely a big improvement to the earlier versions of KDE. It can now also be run on Windows and Mac OS X platforms.

Source: Wikipedia



Written and compiled exclusively for WDD by Gyorgy Fekete.

What do you think of the evolution of these designs? What other improvements would you like to see? Please share with us…

  • http://GRBlog.net GRBlog

    Algunos ni los habia sentido nombrar !!!

  • http://www.id83.nl Lieve

    Hell yeah, awesome timeline. Retro interfaces rock

  • http://www.meghanchiampa.com Meghan

    hahahahah! I remember that chess img and paintbrush. Old school to the max right there.

    • Averageman

      This is a sweet timeline. I remember all of them from being a kid looking at the Lisa until now … should add some scans of Windows 7!

      Also, Meghan you are gorgeous, but you look too young to remember the old O/S screenshots!

      • http://meghanchiampa.com Meghan

        I started at an early age. BASIC was my first language. BTW – I’m the one on the right. Lol.

  • vertikal

    HAHAH, great Post,
    THE most amaizing is that my grand parents still use 16 year old PC with Windows 3.11 to run their small company.
    I don’t know how come the computer still works. even the hard drive never failed.

  • http://www.mjedesign.com Michael

    Things have really come a long way in the last 3 decades.

  • http://www.areacriacoes.com.br daniel lopes

    apple os x leopard interface rocks, much more cleanner than vista and still more slick.

    • HuukedOnFonix

      LOL, it only took 6 posts for the fan-boys to pop in…..

      • smgbblrtkmhndl

        At least he didn’t say “rox.”


    • Pete

      LOL That made me chuckle too.. I do enjoy using a mac, but the fans are just close minded little twerps! I used to be against windows, but i just think they are in a completely different world to me. Im an Amiga and Linux user, its what I enjoy using, and I love the way they both have evolved.

  • http://www.plechi.cz plechi


  • http://www.brandensilva.com Branden

    Looks like Microsoft was pwning visually with Windows 95 until 2001 when Mac OS X dropped IMO. After that windows remained relatively the same. Visually Vista just looks like eye candy but with less functionality than OS X. Hopefully Windows 7 packs some more usefulness besides what’s been revealed so far because Vista is already relatively solid performance wise for me.

  • http://www.naldzgraphics.net Naldz Graphics

    Pretty cool evolution:) great post:)

  • Andrew France

    Those bring back memories! Although it does seem unquestioned that the window model is the best we can do, I don’t quite see how overlapping windows and having to move them about the desktop has ever been useful. I always work in everything full screen, although I suppose a tiling window manager might be useful.

  • xabopi

    Somewhere in the beginning I think there was something called GEM by digital research if my mempry does not fail me

    Am I right?

    • http://www.zumaques.com Ferran Alvarez

      Yes, I also miss GEM, from Xerox.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      Just been added

      • http://www.darkforce.org DarkLord

        You included GEM for the Atari ST – thank you very much. I just wish you had also posted the later versions of gem that came on the TT030 and the Atari Falcon.

        TOS 2.06, 3.06, and 4.04 were much improved!

        Anyways, thank you for a great article. :)

  • http://www.cankoklu.com Can

    I know I’m going to get burned for this… But I think all the improvements after Windows 95 are cosmetic more than anything..

    I would be perfectly satisfied with a Win 95 machine today.. (imagine how fast it would run.. assuming that it could run on multi-core 64-bit systems)

    • http://netzlogger.de Ulf Klose

      Yes, you’re gonna get burned for this :D

      Not all of those cosmetic improvements are for the beauty only, they help to be more productive. Except you’re using Windows, at Redmond it seems like they’re not realizing that cosmetic changes could also be used for improving productivity.

    • Jeremy

      Security, my friend. Security.

  • Ralph

    Wow, just wow. I’m looking at IRIX 3 and Next and I’m thinking “Jeez, it looks like it took everyone else 5 years just to catch up to these.” Visually at least.

    • Chris

      Processing and memory capacity is one reason why they look sharper than anything else. IRIX and NeXT systems had a lot of special silicon to make them work, and they were correspondingly expensive.

    • Ped

      The truly funny thing about it is, that it took everyone else 5 years to catch up visually, but in terms of functionality, stability a cutting edge technologies some did need even more then 5 years just to catch up, some didn’t till now. :)

      I sort of miss Solaris in the list. While it was just yet another UNIX, I did work with it for couple of months at university lab, in year 1993, having 9 virtual desktops, optical mouse (the old type, which required special pad with mirror like surface and grid lines and you had to hold it perpendicular to the lines otherwise it’s movements were erratic), multi user OS, and ability to work remotely on any other X server machine or run applications at them…

  • http://vainsfaktory.wordpress.com/ Joe Vains

    Woaw… thanks for this awesome post… *nostalgy* ;)

  • http://www.syaoran.net Patrick

    Wow! Amazing how the GUI design has dramatically improved in less than 30 years! The oldest I’ve ever used here is the Windows 3.1 one.

  • http://vishesh.vineesh.info Vishesh Kumar

    Don’t mind guys, but it’d be rather nice if you cared to include KDE 4 too. Really nice timeline, but without KDE 4, one tends to think that OSS interfaces are really backward, though in my view they aren’t so much.
    You’ve even missed out on updating Gnome to 2.24. Do I see an anti-OSS bias here?? :) Just kidding; really amazing collection nevertheless. :D

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      We’ve just added it :)

  • http://www.doublejdesign.co.uk Jack

    I wanted to write sth like this as well. But obviously you are quick. Also you could include something more about Windows 7. I had collected the logos for all versions of Windows as well which you didn’t mention in this.

  • Liam

    nice article, but why end with leopard, what about KDE 4.2? also what happened to gnome?

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      They’ve both just been added.

  • http://www.winsoft.se/ Anders Hesselbom

    I am sure that the Amiga had “preemtive multitasking”, not “primitive multitasking” as stated here. Se preemption at Wikipedia.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      You’re right. Thanks for pointing that out – we’ve corrected this.

    • Jeff

      Anders it was stated correctly: the Amiga did have PRIMITIVE Multitasking – i.e. it was NOT preemptive, meaning that one errant program could bring down the whole system. Do a Google search for “Guru Meditation Error”. :P

      • Gil Gilliam

        Jeff, it was stated incorrectly. The AmigaOS was built on a preemptive multitasking UNIX kernel..and was the only preemptive desktop system until NT came along. The Guru Meditation was akin to a kernel panic, where the underlying supervisor got hosed, but individual apps could crash without the system coming down, as well as share all memory.

        I well recall standing in the Computerland store in late 1985 watching the Amiga 1000 running 12 or 14 programs in 256K of memory, all independently active. Then I walked over to the MS-DOS CGA PC and past the monochrome Mac with a 9 inch screen…then back to my 4096 color, stereo sound, genlocked, preemptive multitasking, built-in speech equipped, specialized processor built Amiga, which I promptly carried out of the store (after paying for it, of course). Jay Miner, we hardly knew ye…

        C’mon, give our baby the love it deserves, goodness knows Commodore never did.

      • Eduardo

        Absolutely true Gil. Commodore NEVER, NEVER realized what they had in their hands.
        I can never imagine a company so stupid to develop and market something that good and advanced.
        They deserve the ending they had (unfortunalely they took the Amiga with them).

      • Eduardo

        Be nicer man :)
        That was 1985, a time with 16 bit buses, 256KB RAM and 7 Mhz CPUs.
        And NO hard drives to boot from.
        The rest of the OS for home computers were still trying to understand what preemptive multitasking was about.
        She set a trend (dispite the Guru error).

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  • http://mrfloris.com/ Floris


    • zoey

      I agree with your note of confusion at the omission of Mac OS. I think it was a fantastic operating system. And it was around for quite some time.

      What gives?

  • http://www.marcofolio.net/ Marco

    That’s really cool to see! Very complete article, the interfaces came a long way. Can’t wait for the future!

  • http://we-design.it tobi

    WHOW!!!! Great list of GUI History!!!

    Awesome what happened in the past 25 Years!

  • Pia

    Wow I so remember all this from watching my dad work when I was a kid hahaha!! Thank God for evolution… I sincerely admire my dad for even being able to work in such conditions!! :p

    • http://www.retrojunkies.co.uk Steve

      “Thank God for evolution…”

      Love it :D

      Anyway, why no mention of Compiz? Compiz on Linux blows all the competition away. It’s better than Vista and OS X visually, has awesome effects and required far less RAM than Vista to look great.

  • http://www.ushcompu.com.ar totoloco

    and kde4???

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      It’s just been added

  • http://dezinerfolio.com Navdeep

    Amazing list.. everyone who uses a computer must see this!

  • http://www.hamroawaaz.com Rahul

    I’d started using computer by starting MS Dos and currently I’m satisfied by Windows XP; I don’t like the new windows vista which is very resource hungry.

  • http://www.spaksu.com Spaksu

    Great post, but where is “PARDUS” (Turkish national operating system)

    • http://www.yalazi.org Onur YALAZI

      There is no Turkish National Operating system. Pardus is just another linux distro by guys from Tubitak UAKAE..

      Also it doesn’t have any resemblence to a “desktop environment”.. It just uses Kde.

  • Skye

    Where’s KDE 4.2? I’m guessing that it puts others to shame and therefore wasn’t included :D


    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      Just been added :)

  • http://deviantstudio.ca/wp Richard

    You missed Mac OS 9, which was a comparable difference between 8 and X.

  • http://www.SohTanaka.com Soh

    Some of the older interface color combos gave me quite a headache X-p

    Very interesting time line, thanks!

  • Pascal Hartig

    Amazing post. But I’m missing KDE 4 screens.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter


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  • raymassie

    Mac OS 9?

  • Dave

    Where’s the 2009 Desktop Environments for Linux?

    Surely this wouldn’t be complete without the latest version of Gnome or at least KDE 4 which is a completely new revision of KDE.
    A mention of Compiz would also fit nicely here in advancements in user interfaces.

    • http://ljbinc.com Jeff Little

      Has there really ever been one?

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      Gnome and KDE have just been added.

  • The Ancient One

    I remember them all.(sigh)
    ah to be young again- with not even a calculator in sight.

  • http://www.utahmediadirectory.com Utah Dude

    A fascinating post! It’s amazing that you acquired all of these great images!

  • Jeroen

    No RISC OS? (1988 – 2008)

  • parsnips

    Irix is a Unix operating system made by SGI – not a graphical user interface
    Irix can run X Windows (which is what you are showing) and any Window Manager on top of it (there are lots, OpenStep, E, etc…)
    Same can be said for Solaris and Linux and FreeBSD
    You left out Compiz/Beryl, Looking Glass and a lot of other GUIs too

    • pfft

      Yes, IRIX was X11 but SGI and most third party applications mainly used the Motif graphical user interface toolkit – but a version of Motif that was heavily modified by SGI (then “Silicon Graphics”) to achieve a verify specific look&feel; the window manager was SGI’s own 4Dwm and then there was the IRIS Workspace, then came Indigo Magic…..
      It’s absolutely correct to say that IRIX included its own graphical user interface even if the basis was (off course) X.

  • peter

    Nice — but no RISC OS? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RISC_OS

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  • http://wpcult.com The Frosty @WPCult

    I remember playing the chess game!!

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  • Ragnar Þór Valgeirsson

    One of the most interesting articles I’ve read in a very long time!!

  • http://www.deviantstudio.ca/wp/ Richard

    For those of you saying “OS9?”

    Its was the version release between Apple OS 8 and Apple OS X (X actually is pronounced Ten, its a roman numeral), anyways upon the release of OS X Apple redubbed OS 9 as Classic. There were a lot of graphical changes between 8 and 9, colorization really started there.

  • nhek

    nice list – you could have also included BeOS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BeOS)

    • GIR

      I agree. It was really the only other option you had if you owned a mac back in the day…

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter


  • Kyderdog

    Kinda miss the Apple GS OS
    And Atari TOS and GEM..

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  • http://www.camelliacrops.com camelia

    First time i learn computer is using DOS. is it not an OS interface? coz it not in the list.

    • sysop073

      It’s not a *graphical* user interface

  • Javier

    One comment regarding the Amiga:

    It’s multitasking capacities were hardly primitive. The Amiga had fully pre-emptive mulltitasking, and it was the first “home OS” which had this feature. All other computers at that time had cooperative multitasking (one application freezes and the entire system freezes). PCs eventually caught up when Windows NT was introduced (8 years later), and in the case of Macs they had to wait a full 15 years before they had this capacity widely available to its users.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      The Amiga text has been corrected – thanks for pointing that out.

    • Eduardo

      Javier, can you explain me why after so many years the Amiga is still diminished with pleasure?

  • Snappy

    What about later GNOME releases?

    Also, I’m pretty sure the screenshot for IRIX was not for the release version in 1986. It probably reflects that found in 1990. This gives a skewed representation of how GUI evolved.

    1986 – 1990
    IRIX 3 (released in 1986, first release 1984)

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      Thanks for pointing that out. Irix screenshot has been replaced and GNOME 2.24 has been added.

  • http://twitter.com/dolud Viktor

    Soft, warm nostalgic feelings about windows 3.11…

  • http://bdesign-studio.org Brandon

    Very cool blog post!

    Its neat to see how things started and then improved each release. I have to say that Apple has the best user interface yet…..and I have never owned a Mac at all! I plan on getting one this summer (Mac Book Pro).

  • lowell

    you mention that NeXSTEP eventually evolved into OPENSTEP. that’s accurate, but you forgot to mention that from OPENSTEP, it further evolved into Mac OS X. the vast majority of the classes we use in both the AppKit and Foundation frameworks in Mac OS X are the same as those that were used for NeXTSTEP. even the class names remain, for instance, the string class is still named NSString in Mac OS X. Save for those using deprecated classes, anything written for NeXTSTEP using AppKit or Foundation is source compatible with Mac OS X and even GnuSTEP. Try that with Windows 3.11 and Windows 7.

    some of the apps from NeXTSTEP also made it to Mac OS X, like TextEdit, Mail.app and Terminal.app.

    NeXTSTEP was so far ahead of it’s time when it was first released, and now, 19 years later, is still one of the more advanced operating systems available.

  • Stan

    How about a little mention of BeOS’s GUI (or ZETAs, Be’s former successor)?

    I think that GUI encompasses some ideas of modern design in addition to simplicity and customization :) .

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      BeOS has been added now

  • http://www.templatemo.com Min Thu

    Very nice to see OS interfaces from old days! :)

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  • Zarlp

    Why have you left out the Graphical Environment Manager ?? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphical_Environment_Manager

  • Bob

    Ah… the memories. Excellent timeline, great to see those retro interfaces again. Left out BeOS and the later iterations of GNOME, though, and the shameless sucking up to apple in the latter end was unnecessary, but on the whole quite enjoyable. :)

    Also, reddit says ‘Hi.’

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      Added the updates :)

  • http://blog.dk.sg DK

    Wow…. This blog entry brings back lots of memories. (Some of them pretty unpleasant. haha)

  • http://blog.insicdesigns.com insic

    cool. do you guys still have this retro OS?

  • Richard S Rumawas

    Nice simple and brief information.

    Thank you.

  • Aaron

    OS X Tiger should have been included to fill the gap from the whole stagnation between the XP through the Vista (2001-2007) years

  • http://www.kaazunut.com loveleen

    brought back old memories dating back to windows 3.0..
    I still remember how much we would be struggling and getting excited over small drawings in mspaint dating a couple of decades before…
    and now it is so much better…and look at the progress now …within 20 years so much changed..

  • http://techlog.mehulved.com Mehul Ved

    No mention of UI’s in cell phones and netbooks that have evolved with time. That would make an interesting addition to the article.

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  • http://www.serversidemagazine.com Gyorgy

    Please guys, don’t confuse operating systems with graphical user interfaces.

    The article is all about the MAJOR GUI advances, and as I tried to emphasize in the beginning of this article that it won’t cover the whole range of GUIs from start to finish.

  • boodle

    Read the source article of the IRIX 3 screenshot. It’s IRIX 6.5 from 1998.

    Here’s a pic of IRIX 3.x for you:

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      Corrected the screenshot – thanks

  • http://www.wearebutmen.nl W.D

    Great post!
    The only thing missing is Gnome 2.x
    Gnome has improved since 1.0!

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      It’s there now – thanks

  • VesqS

    Nice try but as have been pointed out you missed few. GEOS for c64 should be there. Not very usable but graphical none the less. Also Evolution, XFCE and later Amiga OS’s (3 and 4 series) should be there.

  • Syed Mohamed Ali. S

    Wonderful Compilation of the OS UIs. Really, it took me a long journey back in time when I saw the First GUI OS of my life (Win’98). Later I got introduced to Win 3.1, Win 95, Win NT 4.0 and then to Linux UIs (Suse, Redhat and then some other versions) within my College days itself.

  • http://www.copesflavio.com Flavio Copes

    Thanks for this voyage through history.. I especially liked the Amiga OS 2 part.. since it was my first computer.

  • http://www.squidjam.com Ricardo

    Dude, you forgot geOS for the commodore 64.

    And where is Gnome 2?

    Worth noting: KDE and Gnome Desktop environments are extremely customizable, and there are TONS of better looking UI desings for them than the plain old OoB looks. To me that’s what makes them better. You can play mix and match between window frame decorations and controls skins.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      Both of these have been added

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  • NameRequired

    The Amiga had “primitive multitasking”? I guess you mean it didn’t have memory protection, but that was because the 68k didn’t have a memory management unit. It’s multitasking was not primitive – it was preemptive for instance, while Mac OS was cooperative, and that only changed when Mac OS X came out ~15 years later.

    And then later you say of Workbench 2.04:

    “Many improvements were made to this version of the GUI. The desktop could be divided vertically into screens of different resolutions and color depths, which nowadays seems a little odd. The default resolution of Workbench was 640×256, but the hardware supported larger resolutions too.”

    All of those features already existed in the original version of Workbench. (The most obvious change was the colour scheme and the 3D look, but they also added ARexx and rewrote it from BCPL to C.)

  • nik

    The IRIX screenshot is 5.5 or 6.0 – its not the earlier IRIX (it even has Gimp in the screenshot which is a giveaway).

    Early IRIX looked like this:


    one of the more innovative GUI’s in that era without a doubt. Also, IRIX is a complete OS, not just a GUI.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      Screenshot has been updated now – thanks

  • Ahmed

    A really nice presentation that tour us through Desktop computer evolution. It was such a sweat tour.
    God speed to Human race!

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  • http://www.graphikfood.com/ Zeb

    Really awesome again post !! Remember yours OS, excellent…

  • http://jonr.light.is/ Jón Ragnarsson

    Very nice. I miss Acorn Risc OS gui there, though.

  • Vasi

    Seriously, no way is the pic in the article IRIX from the ’80s. It looks like it’s running WindowMaker, which wasn’t released until ’97. It shows CUPS, which didn’t exist until ’99. And it mentions OpenGL, not released until ’92.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      The screenshot has been replaced now with the correct one.

  • http://espresso-online.info theamoeba

    very nice, interesting how the OS GUI has evolved over time in a relatively short space of time.

    my grandfather used windows 3.1 up to last year when he got ubuntu. ive still got a copy of windows 3.1 on stiffys, can you believe it :).

    perhaps it would be fun to look at how CLI OSs evolved sometime :)

  • http://pitudatos.blogspot.com Pitu

    Nice post, thanks!

    But… Where are my MSX and Basic??? I supose they are not here… because they have no design! ;-)

  • Joey Diggs

    The Amiga had PREEMPTIVE multitasking, you cretin. For gosh sakes, what a stupid error.

    And no one with an Amiga kept their workbench like that. We all ran MagicWB or the like.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      Sorry about that – we’ve fixed the text now.

  • http://www.gheymedia.com Jason

    Awesome post…great to see the change in appearance and functinality over the years.

  • Russell

    Hey what about GEOS for the Commadore 64?


    I remember in the 90’s when my ancient pc died and i’d lent my apple classic to someone i had to trawl out the C64 with GEOS to type up a project. I hadn’t thought of that for years until just now..


    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      It’s there now

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  • Fkrocker

    What about the GEM?

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      We’ve added it

  • http://twitter.com/venkat83 venkat

    Guess you missed Compiz!

    • Tom

      Compiz is not a Desktop or a Desktop Environment for the operating system. Compiz is just a window manager what can not be used alone. You need something else to bring the real desktop.

      And KDE4 has much better 3D effects than Compiz ;)

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  • http://www.smartproductivity.com Scott K

    Great, great article. I never realized some of the interfaces from the 80’s had a pretty good look.

  • bhindstein

    Ok, I looked twice and did not see Windows 2000 or NT. Perhaps it is embedded in the XP listing?

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  • http://www.otroblogger.com Sairuz

    KDE4 is so Beautiful, love it

  • Arm0

    What about win2k? I love it!

  • Keith Pickett

    I think I see your point in this article. I was about to flame you for not including X-windows if you mentioned KDE, but you were specific to KDE4. KDE4 is driven by QT. So, I get it now. It’s a classic RTFA. However, I sort of question the MS Windows mention in this context. The earlier versions ran on top of DOS from what I understand. I guess it doesn’t really matter, it’s a good article to compare the differences between the GUIs too.

  • blarg33

    what no BeOS love??? guess everyone’s forgotten it…

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      We added it now

  • Jones, Francisco

    I agree Gyorgy.

    I see you have included no UNIX GUI as Motif, CDE, OpenWin, …
    This way, it looks as UNIX has never had GUI.

  • dude

    Me thinks you missed Amiga 3.0, BeOS, Commodore GeOS… And BTW Amgia was preemtive and mutliprocessor. Its a cool stroll, but kinda light on substance and how before windows dominated – advances went much much faster. Look how a different GUI came out just about each year – and each one was much improved over the previous ones…. with the MS monopoly – that’s all but been wiped out.

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  • http://ux.buzzspree.com/ Gary

    I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I was blissfully unaware of the advancements in the Unix world back in the mid eighties.

    I’m just old enough remember the command-line days before GUI.

    Great post.

  • http://www.pickmore.com tAALz

    Wow that was a nice resource ..
    I have written an article few days ago about the Windows Operating System since 1985.

  • Jamaal

    Don’t forget to throw a modern Gnome in the last section. Through Ubuntu, that’s the desktop that most Linux users are seeing lately.

  • mycroft


    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      GEOS is there now

  • Rijandael Edok

    I miss OS/2. It was the best of the best, a decade ahead of every other system. WHy oh why did IBM kill it?

  • Geos

    You did not include GEOS (Graphic Environment Opertating System) for the Commodore.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      GEOS has just been added

  • http://talkbinary.com Talk Binary

    Awesome timeline. The time and effort put into this article is amazing and it shows! Unfortunately I believe Microsoft blew it with Vista. Too much eye candy which bogged the system down. Still keeping XP!

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  • Ben

    The whole thing completely skips over GS/OS for the Apple //gs

    I’m not sure how you could have made that error.

  • Doug

    I agree with Rijandael. OS/2 Warp was everything XP has and then some, 5 years ahead of XP and half the hardware requirement. I used both NeXTSTEP and OS/2 Warp would prefer either to Windows anything…

  • Valeri Gladun

    197? – CPM Power
    1980? – QNX
    198? – rusian Miss for PDP-11
    1982 – Lotus
    1984 – X11
    198? – DR-DOS Deskview

  • http://ryjek.subfan.pl/blog RyJek

    Best thing I’ve read for some time. Definetly was worth it.

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  • Abe

    Totally false. Windows NT was the firs with the “Start” button.

    • Lincoln

      In case you don’t know, Windows NT 4.0 (the first with a Start button) came out in 1996, after Windows 95.

      So, in case your memory is failing you or you weren’t around when these OSs came out, check your sources before declaring things false.

  • http://www.informacjeaktualnosci.pl maxs

    And where is Windows 98 ?

    • speedball

      windows 98 is in the list, dumbass

    • http://desaindigital.com jeprie

      you cant find it? have you READ it

  • http://www.szuman.eu szuman

    Top5 by me:

    1. Leopard
    2. Vista
    3. KDE4
    4. Tiger
    5. KDE3


  • Lewis


  • aaaa

    IRIX 3 and the first picture are totally wrong

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      IRIX 3 pic has just been replaced

  • http://www.themeforest.net/user/contempoinc?ref=contempoinc Chris Robinson

    nice collection, OS’ have definitely come a long way

  • carloscalle

    y gmome? por que no se muestra las ultimas versiones?????

  • http://moonphasys.blogspot.com Raffa

    Great work! Well done!

  • http://www.radicalpowersports.com Todd

    You seem to have forgotten the Atari OS’s. TOS operating system that ran GEM on top as a GUI.


    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      GEM has just been added – thanks

  • parsnips

    1. you left out the Zune
    the best OS every made for any device, especially the one that comes in brown!
    Zune forever (glad I got that tattoo)

    2. you left out GEM by Digital Research that ran on DOS, I loved it and it had GEM Draw which was a great early vector drawing app!

    3. you left out Solaris on X Windows!

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      GEM has been added and some others

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  • iyan

    wow….i like it…

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  • 一笑飞雪

    Hello everybody,I come from china,I’m waiting for windows 7.

  • http://www.codecolored.com José Rico

    Genial, yo empecé con el windows 3.1, venía del ms2. Me llama la atención como se ha evolucionado en pocos años.

  • http://www.serversidemagazine.com Gyorgy

    Try to look at the GUI evolution as a big picture and not broken down for every platform than you can see the article makes sense and you’ll realize that why some of the GUIs were left out.

  • NoBLe

    (Microsoft = intento de copiar a APPLE)*a lo largo de la historia.

  • http://www.multidesign.com.mk Multidesign

    Great post! I miss my Commodore 64 :)

    • Lincoln

      I miss my Amiga 500 :D

  • gcristofol

    “The desktop could be divided vertically into screens of different resolutions and color depths” Tha’s true for Workbench 1.0 either!

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  • http://sadistt0.blogspot.com Sadist

    Nice pics, old school :-D

  • Wlad

    Well. And where is Oberon?

  • Slack

    There was the system called, maybe, Frameworks (for DOS). It was approx. in 1986-1990.

  • http://www.adverghettijunction.com Tom Simnett

    You definitely missed out one major one that had a lot of influence in the way we use computers today. RISC OS, by Acorn. It’s the Drag and Drop stuff that RISC OS did that made it a real joy to use. And the taskbar, and the system tray – they all lend their thanks to RISC OS.

    My $0.02.

  • Rob

    Where is Atari?

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  • http://smartsmallbusiness.blogspot.com/ Elena

    Things really change a lot… Let’s image how people thinking changed during this time…

  • max_posedon

    KDE4.0 release 11 January 2008, not January(2009) plz fix

  • Rohan

    Where is Syllable and AtheOS??!
    Whithout it this review is not full!

  • SEjC

    Thanks. So cool looking at all these screens. Thanks for creating this info. Very excellent work and very informative.

  • http://www.isean.co.za Sean Nieuwoudt

    wow, great list! looking forward to seeing what the next 20 years hold in terms of OS UI.

  • http://laberso.ru laberso

    I like it. Nostalgia…

  • computer geek

    Wow. Windows 1.0 actually looked oool and since that it has become more and more ugly and wasting your CPU power on a idiotic and very anti elegant look.

  • http://mvarelablog.com/ Marcos

    Very nice and useful post, liked this.

  • http://omiliya.org/ kovtunos

    Bravo! Thanks for this anazing interface tour!

  • ender2k


  • http://quor-wom.blogspot.com/ Miguel

    Real Great job! Congratulations and thanks.


  • FighterForTrue

    Just my own opinion. That’s so “cool” to put your ass on the computer a start an another holy war about what’s best – *nix or win etc. But if you clear your understanding about “best” OS and look at those pictures, you will see hidden detailes. Personally, what i have seen in those GUI’s. Since 70’s to mid 80’s Xerox GUI was innovate and UNTOUCH solution for most other that will born in corporations
    like Apple. Look at first Apple OS screen – similarity is FULL (of course, because they copied Xerox GUI works, I know). Than look at first windows’ – they are different. Just look! Much more than other!!! Look clearly! IMHO interface is a bit more user-friendly. But, OK. Than, a new revolution of “GUI works” I see in NEXTSTEP. Repeat it -just look to previous GUI’s and compare with NEXTSTEP. My english is bad, so i can’t find much more words to detail clearly my opinion, sorry. But next, OK, look at win95. Another revolution! New, most user-friendly and logical interface! Just look at
    any Mac OS 9 screen: it’s very…uncomfortable. When i’am looking at it i just want to move it on a trash;) But Seriously!!! Win system from 95 looks LOGICAL! So it don’t create a lot of garbage-like icons on a desktop, it has very power genus solution with name START ( of course, somebody will say , that it was created by Apple, but Apple didn’t REALIZE it like Bill Gates did in Windows!!!). And the last one – new Mac os x 2001 release and Windows XP. I haven’t any words here. It’s just ONLY personal – what looks better: OSX or XP. For me – i can’t use left standing buttons (red-yellow-green) – uncomfortable and unlogical personally!!! I can’t relax in osx style. It’s very, very SO CLEARLY simple. I just can’t imagine an OS without bar includes “File” , “Edit”, “Help” … IN WINDOWS-LIKE ORGANIZATION STYLE!!! But, of course, just my own opinion. That’s all i wanted to say, thanks a lot, if read it (or not :) ) and again…SORRY FOR MY BAD ENGLISH!

  • http://www.dotworks.pl macias

    a like this “timelines” :)

  • http://rafiiik.blogspot.com/ Rafik

    Nostalgia… :(

  • http://wow.x26.ru NiLL

    Dos forever!!!

  • http://www.zacvineyard.com Zac

    Oh man–remember the Microsoft abortion Windows ME? And didn’t Microsoft even give Windows a GUI update between 98 and 2000?

  • http://www.16software.com/autoscreen ohxten

    Awesome! Love seeing the old screenshots.

  • manwithoutface

    bugoga=) KDE4 == VIsta ^^ 1/1

  • http://www.nsorg.com NSOrg

    Wow! That help my university computer study

  • http://www.cyclelogicpress.com Partners in Grime

    Wow, the Next GUI looked amazing.

  • Deem_One

    Nothing really changed. Only more colors were added. Compare the second picture and the last picture. The same elements… windows and icons

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  • http://seba-r.tumblr.com/ Sebastian

    Wow! I loved this post. It carried me through the entire story of computers…
    I felt like in a time machine…
    Nice researching work too..

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  • n3o

    I remember since MS-DoS 6.22 and Windows 3.1!

  • http://anjhero.wordpress.com anjhero

    great collection!!

  • http://www.katiero.com Katiero

    My first OS: Windows 3.11, I had a 486 with 8MB RAM. Jesus, the time flies!

  • http://spotmeon.blogspot.com Gaurav

    Kudos to this post!!

  • http://112mirabela.wordpress.com/ maja

    WOW…. This post, my dear friend, is a beautifully complete anthology. Thank you. Interesting read even for me, totally non-tech type.

  • http://kairichardkoenig.de Kai Richard Koenig

    Thnks for the post. I enjoyed it

  • http://theyoungbusinessman.biz Cristyano

    It’s an awesome post. I belonged to the Windows 3.1 era when I first touched a computer.

    I have not much experiences with KDE, might try it sometime soon..

    I hope Windows 7 GUI will also be included in this post very soon too.\


  • http://www.serversidemagazine.com Gyorgy

    Windows 7 is not included, because the operating system itself is in Beta and not released to regular consumers yet.

  • http://www.points.ro Khaled

    nice post … thanks

  • http://weblog.luclodder.net Luc Lodder

    You forgot some important gui’s (imo)

    Risc/OS (Acorn)
    DESQview (build on Quartedeck memory manager QEMM)
    Deskmate (Tandy)

    And ofcourse there are more.

  • http://www.designcotidiano.com.br Vilson Martins Filho


    You just made my life easyer. I’m researching about GUI at work, and there is.

    Let’s start the keynote!

  • clowan

    hey, why hasn’t you you placed beos only in 1995, while it was released several years before that featuring such a great UI?

  • http://cazo-tec.blogspot.com Claudio Cardozo
  • Fri13

    It would be nice to get KDE 2.x series on the timeline too.


    One truly innovative desktop environment for multiple OS’s not just Linux.

  • rprebel

    I nostalgia’d pretty hard when I saw OS8’s Control Strip. Also, there were ‘skins’ for the Mac going back to OS8. I don’t believe they were available for System 7, but I could be mistaken on that. Either way, there were 3 different themes available, one of them resembling an artist’s sketch pad. I don’t remember what they were called, but I do remember Apple’s legal team going nuts when they were leaked (they weren’t supposed to be made public; I don’t remember why).

    Great article, tiny omissions aside.

  • rprebel

    Mac OS 8.5 themes

    They were called Gizmo, HiTech, and (I believe) Paper, which was my favorite. They were released with the betas, but pulled from the final release at the last minute. This was in 1998.

  • Magnus Mulqvist

    Even Microsoft didn’t call Windows 1.0 an operating system. The box says, “Microsoft Windows Operating Environment”.

    ICYI, the system requirements were: 320K memory, DOS 2.0, two double-sided disk drives and a graphics adapter card. Nothing fancy, really.

  • pinaxe

    Without DeskView and especially without DeskViewX the overview is not complete.
    DVX had such a features that XP don’t yet. Even after 10-20 years of development.

  • mycmos

    MS is always more advanced in GUI development since windows 95, I think.

  • Gil Gilliam

    First off, great article and very interesting.

    One question on your AmigaOS note – you mention four colors – are you referencing the color scheme of the desktop itself, or the color capability of the machine overall? That was 4096 colors in an era when the PC was still CGA, and Mac was b/w.

    I have to go down to the basement and fire up my 1000 for a trip down memory lane now.

    Thanks again for taking the time to compile this. Those of us who started our PC journey on Heathkit build-your-owns and Trash-80s have enjoyed the ride…

  • http://searchcorner.blogspot.com/ krishna

    This is absolutely a wonderful compilation of the Era in OS. I loved this dude. Kudos to you :)

  • http://www.commonmanviews.com Utopianzhere

    Good one..nice info about the OS evolution….

  • http://technology.johnsamuel.in John Samuel

    Thanks for this post.

  • wrn
  • http://www.serversidemagazine.com Gyorgy

    @mycmos Are you kidding me? I’m not MS hater or Apple evangelist, but just look at Mac OS X Tiger or Leopard. The GUI is unified and simple. The whole user experience is constructed logically…

  • http://vincentgates.net Vincent Gates

    Great Post.
    This brought back tons of memories dating back when I was using windows 3.1. I was only in it for the games. But I still remember using mspaint to create drawings pixel by pixel. A lot has change and it’s only going to get better.

  • http://cambiadeso.wordpress.com cambiadeso

    The best is KDE 4.2
    Hello Inside Linux (ubuntu)
    I’M sorry I’m Spanish and I doesn’t speak english very well.
    Soy de españa jeje

  • JrMn

    This article was great!!! I remember when I was using Win 3.1 :D

  • skierpage

    You left out NeWS (Network extensible Window System) developed by James Gosling (father of Java) at Sun around 1985. Like the X11 Window System, programs sent commands across the network to the window system. But NeWS used PostScript as both the imaging model and the programming language of the window system, so programs talked to the window system similar to the way word processors send PostScript code to a printer.

    This meant you could have arbitrary-shaped windows containing fancy resolution-independent PostScript graphics; you could define new PostScript operators in the window system like DrawShaded3DScrollbar and then invoke them instead of sending 20 drawing commands every time, just as a printer driver defines RenderRightJustifiedText; and you could even download entire PostScript programs such as calculators and clocks to run in the window system. It was incredible technology for the time, more advanced than X11 (which overtook it in the workstation market and continues today) and still unmatched today in many ways.

    The actual appearance of windows and user interface elements was completely flexible, it was all in PostScript code you could modify. Eventually Sun implemented its OPEN LOOK user interface as a NeWS toolkit. I wish I had a screenshot!

  • http://www.robgrady.com Rob Grady

    Very cool. Thanks for the memories.

  • Joanne

    Wow, really makes you think how much it will change in the coming 10 years doesn’t it.

  • http://myspace.com/mafiaoutlawstaff Trevor

    Great Post/Timeline!!!

    its amazing and it looks like since vista microsoft got lazy, its why i downgraded my vita to XP

  • joschka


  • Krishnan

    Now you have the Microsoft Surface/ Iphone/ Android/ PalmPre/ HP touchsmart GUI too, assuming the future of GUI is touchscreen !!

  • Sofia

    Minesweeper is still the same ajaja

  • Sabrina Koo

    haha, well, i don’t know what you guy are talking about , because i have less knowledge compared with you guy .
    just want to say good job to the person that post this article.
    sorry because i don’t know your name.
    don’t angry ,ok?^^

  • http://www.pcorajr.com pcorajr

    Windows had the lead for a few years then Linux Gui and OSX ate MS candy. OS X, KDE and Gnome not only look great but offer a very functional GUI.

  • http://typesett.com typesett

    awesome! i always kind of dug os9. brings back memories.

  • http://geek.michaelgrace.org MikeGrace

    Love the memories that all of these pictures bring back. I am really glad that GUIs have improved and I really look forward to the future improvements. I hope that usability continues to be on the forefront of the minds that are working on future GUIs because I love my keyboard and loath my mouse. : )

  • http://jackthetripper.fragmentone.net Blake

    Gnome 2 Obviously the best :P

  • Charlie Hayes

    BeOS is incorrectly referred to as BeOs

    Windows 95 had ActiveDesktop with the IE4 Shell Update; Windows 98 was not the first appearance.

  • jmndos

    You missed windows 7

  • Vektek

    You have seemed to skip an entire os: UNIX. What about CDE or OPENWINDOWS

  • http://www.TechLighten.com Muhammad Abbas

    awesome summary of the whole gui history. good to know how it all started and turned out to be such a great product (the whole gui setup) in the end. I’ve experiend win95 to vista for all the windows releases. good to know starts of gui were NOT windows though :D

  • http://whatareyouwatching.uni.cc Television Spy

    Man I feel old, I sure remember a whole whack of those -at least 90%.

  • Blandy

    WOW!! Nice time-line. Nice to see the old GUI interfaces again.

  • Evan

    Beautiful work they have done over the years.

  • http://applebyte.org AppleByte

    I remember them all… I reminiscing how hard to create a simple document layout. This is so cool!

  • http://riscos.net RiscOS

    What about RISCOS?

  • http://guiadelojas.com Joao Moraes

    There are so many. I will like to see a design as in Minority Report!

  • http://diasadesign.com/ Samuel

    Not to be pedantic, but IRIX 3.0 was a proprietary unix developed by SGI, the GUI itself was called 4sight and was replaced with xwindows and 4dwm (which basically looked very similar but allowed an end-user to swap in a different window manager such as nextstep) in IRIX 4.

    Sadly, other than becoming more colorful and faster (mostly owing to advancements in hardware) there hasn’t been much improvement in the workings of the interface since XEROX STAR.

  • BobTurbo

    Windows GUI development actually started going backwards after 95 up until Vista. Great work Microsoft…

  • Matt

    Wheres the Atari TOS?

  • http://gadgetphix.com Mike

    Awesome trip down memory lane. I didn’t realize that XP is almost 9 years old. Hard to believe that smartphone OS’s now days are more powerful than some of those OS’s.

  • Tyler Hammond

    yah they missed a few OS but still… that is pretty amazing lol

  • http://www.review-ninja.com Computer Howto

    Very cool pot, brings a lot of memories back :)

  • http://jestinstoffel.com Jestin

    No mention of Compiz/Beryl/Compiz Fusion. Makes the timeline seem incomplete.

  • http://blog.ibd.com Robert J Berger

    Nice article. I remember all of them (unfortunately :-)

    Glad someone mentioned Sun’s NEWS. It was the most revolutionary of all the GUIs mentioned. We are only now getting to what it could do. And the thing that is getting us there is Javascript!

    The one not mentioned and presaged almost all except (or maybe even) the Xerox Alto was Lisp Machines out of the MIT AI Lab and made by Symbolics and Lisp Machine Inc. in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Some screen shots at http://www.sts.tu-harburg.de/~r.f.moeller/symbolics-info/development-environment/index.html

    To quote Martin Howse from “The Road to Lisp” http://tuxdeluxe.org/node/199

    Seasoned Lispers come over all dewy eyed at the mere mention of Genera, the OS that ran on the Symbolics Lisp Machines and which included an integrated editor, excellent GUI and a range of functionalities to examine objects and processes. Genera is hard to beat when it comes down to integration and it’s tough to give an idea of the flexibility afforded by the tight bonds between editor, object oriented programming language, GUI toolkit (CLIM) and the OS itself. Genera occupies an important position both within the history of coding and Lisp itself and it’s worth noting the appearance of the Emacs family in this field.

  • Cynic

    I’m old enough to remember that Windows 1.0 and Windows 2.0 were NOT “Operating Systems”. They were memory hungry, painful to use “file managers” that you ran on top of the “real” OS, DOS to make it look prettier. No comparison to the Mac OS of the day, which actually was built-in to the OS experience.

  • Ladnar

    Actually, System 7 wasn’t the first MacOS to support color. System 6 was, it was just that a lot of the computers System 6 ran on themselves didn’t support color. If you look at screenshots of the Macintosh II running System 6, Mac OS 6 did support color.

  • http://www.mcbwebdesign.co.uk Martin Bean

    An awesome post. Brings back a lot of memories from my childhood and using computers.

  • http://beccakate.com Becs

    I remember we got our first computer in 1994 and had Windows 3.11 on it. We had a whopping 8Mb hard drive. Oh the days…..

  • http://eyoosuf.blogspot.com yoosuf

    its a nice little summery!

  • http://www.devia.be Stefaan Lesage

    Great article, brings back memories to my gool old Amiga.

  • Kaushik

    Wow, I guess this must be an American post because you totally negated to mention RISC OS for the ACORN computers that were so popular here in the UK throughout the 90’s. I remember ALWAYS having Acorn computers in the house as they were often light-years ahead of its time for desktop publishing, general computing and sheer processing power, running ARM processors!

    Shame us Brits can never market anything successfully to the rest of the world, as the world would’ve been a different place if RISC OS was top dawg today…. *sighs*

    • Jazzy

      You also had Psion, a very good PDA platform for its time and age.

  • NathanR

    WOW, great job on the screen shots. Must have taken some time to put that one together.

  • CloudFan

    Excellent article, thanks! It provides nice examples to great design books such as Exploring Interface Design (Design Exploration Series)

  • http://www.photofolio.dk/ Michael Nielsen

    Great post, I remember the GEOS for my C64. Those were the days.

  • http://www.twitter.com/svenwiesner Sven Wiesner

    Great Post, thanks for sharing this with us!

  • Simon

    Nice List and Graphics, however the year 2000 is missing…..Windows 2000?


    funnily enough its still supported till July 2010!

    Windows XP was built on top of Windows 2000

    Oh! and Windows NT and Windows NT Workstation – Windows 2000 was built on top of NT!

    its all coming back to me now!

    …..Sun Systems too!


  • http://thehiddenguide.com/ Laxcer

    Awesome post it brings good memories to me from my childhood Windows 3.0 was the first OS iv ever used i even still have this old computer

  • http://oraculr.com/ Achmed al-Fayed

    The Mac fanboys always led me to believe that Microsoft copied everything from Apple. The way I see it now is that it’s the other way around, with Mac OS looking like shite until 2001, six years after Win95 and 3 years after Win98.

  • http://www.you-cubez.com/?referer=34778 George

    Ah, those were the times. :)

  • StrayBit

    Many thanks for this effort. I’m finally starting to understand some of those beasts!

    Oh! The memories: GEM on CP/M! Then I had to be drug into Win3.1 just to get my new HP printer to work. Then the office got Win95 for the networking capability. To this day, I don’t use anything past Win98! Although I am trying Linux with the same problems that the later Windows give.

    I remember someone sitting me down to an Apple (non-gui) exclaiming “Isn’t this great?” My response, “What do I do now?” (I still don’t read pictoglyphs, need labels under them.)

  • rmrf

    You’ve forgot about OS/2 Warp 3 … This was like 4 years of my life =)

  • shoorah

    The Os/2 2.0 screenshots shown above (http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c31872/os-2-2.gif, etc.) are actually from the os/2 warp 3.0, or at least for me they seem very similar to those. Afair, 2.0 had different window design, animation effects, etc. Strangely, no mention of warp 3.0 here at all.

  • Larry

    Ummm where is X-windows in this list? It predates most of whats here, and is still in use (I’m using it right now to post this) unlike most of the stuff here.

  • http://dezinerfolio.com Navdeep

    Great interfaces… those days were so good!


  • dbs

    So it’s 28 years of same old sh*t: windows upon windows with buttons and sliders. I’m not saying I could come up with anything better, but I’m not genius behind UI design in a big software company :) 

  • http://hosting.mulyoo.com Joshua Parker

    I’ve been looking for a timeline like this for awhile. Thanks for posting.

  • skierpage

    Another nifty OS interface you omitted is GO’s PenPoint around 1991, developed for the pen-based tablet computers that were going to be the next big thing. It made extensive use of gestures. These included the first use of press and drag to move the selection (which other operating systems quickly copied), but many other gestures like a caret to embed a document, and two underlines to automatically sum a column of numbers in the Numero third-party spreadsheet. Instead of a desktop UI it had a true notebook UI which you could embed document pages for different applications, with section tabs and page turn icons (all of which Microsoft shamelessly ripped off for their Windows for Pen Computing smoke and mirrors pre-announcement).

    The PenPoint OS was object oriented and the toolkit had intelligent layout to support changing the screen orientation, which together made document embedding much simpler to implement than Microsoft’s convoluted Object Linking and Embedding spec.

    PenPoint won best Operating System in the 1992 Byte Awards and in PC Magazine’s 1991 Technical Excellence awards but despite hardware from several manufacturers (including the first IBM ThinkPad) and applications from many software companies it never caught on. It was briefly referenced in AT&T’s “someday you will FAX from the beach” TV ads, sadly AT&T’s EO Communicator was dying in the marketplace while their TV commercials were saying “Some day…”

    General Magic and Apple’s Newton followed later in the 90s, more pen-based communicators with handwriting recognition and their own slew of innovations.

  • scot

    You are missing X Window as a few people complain above (note it is ‘X Window’ NOT plural ‘X Windows’), which is the underlying framework for IRIX, Gnome, KDE, etc. I suppose that might be why it’s missing – it is just a framework for remote presentation of a GUI (but note how radical that concept is in 1984!). But it was released in about 84. So there would be earlier examples than IRIX. E.g. Sun X terminals (with the three-button, optical mouse that had to have the special etched mousepad).


  • mark_silver

    Nice post!

    I can remember most of these and it was nice to see how things have improved. My favorite of all was KDE4!

  • http://www.gamersdatabase.com Gamer

    Ahhh …. this brings back so many memories ! I remember installing Win 3.1 on my computer – the “beast” had a 80 MHz CPU and 16MB RAM :) .
    Great list, thanks!

  • http://canayjun.blogspot.com Outreach

    VisiCalc was great – and it still works (and the original is still available) – imagine a fully functional spreadsheet that has a total memory footprint less than 50k or so… And I remember using windows 2.0 on a monochrome (blue on blue LCD) laptop from HP, what a dog that was.

  • http://krisantus.com santus

    Great post and nice time line

  • Jones, Francisco

    After reading the comment of Katiero I think there is a that cannot differenciate the OS from the GUI.

    Windows 3.11 was a GUI, not an OS.

  • http://www.waldito.com waldo

    Excelent Post; There were so many I haven’t seen in my life. What a post, dude. Excelent. My sincere congrats.

  • Msoft

    Todo esto muestra el avance que se ha dado en el aspecto computacional y todo lo que el desarrollo del hombre ha podido lograr en base a estudios, tenacidad y esfuerzo constante, pasando de decada en decada y de generación en generación los conocimientos que han ido construyendose paso a poso. Pensar que pertenezco a la epoca inicial en la cual se programaba en lenguaje assembler o en clipper o fox entre otros que son parte sin duda de toda esta revolución. He reconocido el 80% de los productos mostrados y sigo pensando en… “hasta donde llegaremos”, “cual será el final?” y por último… esto nos debería de hacer pensar en si hemos logrado para la humanidad el desarrollo y su bien?…
    Espero que sigamos avanzando para el desarrollo de toda la humanidad.

  • http://snarkconsulting.blogspot.com/ Daniel Collico Savio

    What about Sugar OLPC interface? Probably it should be considered on this evolution.

  • http://www.deerawan.com bluedee

    wow..it is really nice article. I have never known some operating systems before windows 95 and this article gives me more information about it.

  • http://www.oldcomputers.it Alberto rubinelli

    Windows 2000 is missed !

  • http://about.psyc.eu lynX

    You should absolutely add a box about X11 running twm, from 1984 on. It was minimal, but we were still using it around 1992/1993 when it would happily host the Mosaic and Netscape web browsers… and we were playing multiuser games on the Internet via the X11 protocol: One central application sending one copy of its GUI to all of the users.
    The proliferation of open source window managers started in the early 90s, which I understand would be too many to mention here. The family tree of X11 window managers is a whole article on its own…

  • Langel

    An important note on GEOS — it had to be installed in the mid ’90s in order to use AOL on a PC. When they moved to the Win3.1 platform you couldn’t play Neverwinter Nights anymore, the very first MMORPG! =o

  • http://piccimario.wordpress.com PicciMario

    Great, great post.. Thanks, it was really interesting! But, by the way, did you forget about the least famed GUI in the history, Microsoft BOB!?!?




  • http://toddhodes.com todd hodes

    as has been noted above, this misses the GUI families related to the “X Window System” from MIT, which ran atop all the important non-consumer/research/engineering OSes of the 90s — HP’s HP-UX, IBM’s AIX, Sun’s SunOS & Solaris, SGI IRIX, DEC Ultrix, Linux, the BSDs (freeBSD, netBSD, BSDi), etc.

    atop this basic system were “window managers” that completed the GUI.
    two of the most historically long-lived and important — mwm (“motif”) and twm (“tim’s”) — are best understood by realizing the breadth and depth of their spawn of siblings and descendants, e.g., tvtwm (first window manager with simultaneous multiple desktops), wildly popular fvwm/fvwm2, windowmaker, enlightenment, sawfish, etc.

    singling out just SGI’s IRIX is actually somewhat sensible, though, in that SGI did not use X windows, and was the only platform to have native 3D graphics hardware, and this was exposed in subtle slick ways in the GUI, such as by allowing you to zoom elements of the entire desktop (windows, fonts, icons) fractionally in or out via on-screen scroll wheel. it took until the end of the nineties before “desktop PC” graphics card makers (like NVidia and ATI) finally included this, and developers got access to it (via either DirectX from microsoft or OpenGL in the open standards community), and could put it into their programs — and their GUIs.

    computer hackers (eg, computer science grad students) in the 90s used to make it a point of honor to spend ridiculous amounts of time customizing these GUIs for themselves and their friends. they would add/subtract/move buttons, change borders and mouse interactions, vary the “docks” and “docking”, and mix these metaphors (eg, run programs inside the dock, the way a clock is still today). i’d wager a pretty penny that everything from win95 on was heavily influenced by this aesthetic, or even built by a member of this community. the screenshots are pretty amazing.

  • http://www.antusblog.de Antu

    Awesome list. Thank you!

  • Yo Ma Ma

    Where is the AT&T 3B1 (aka 7300)? – it had a GUI & mouse in 1987

    The base O/S was Unix System V release 2 with Convergent’s BSD add-ons


  • Lars Albinsson

    Great collection! I am impressed and also reminded how old I am… The gui (and the mouse) was however developed at Stanford Research Institute by Douglas Engelbart in the 60ties. It was displayed toa wide community in 1968, an event often referred to as “the mother of all demos”. The NLS demoed even included videoconferencing and hypertext.



    Lars Albinsson

  • http://yourtvonline.com ann
  • http://canayjun.blogspot.com Outreach

    Anyone remember HP Wave – it wasn’t an OS though, but more than a GUI… Anyway they had cool marketing toys of a surfer on a wave inside i glass tube filled with viscous goo like a lavalamp…maybe that was the best part

  • http://www.honourchick.com Honour Chick

    damn… thx god i didn’t live in the 1980s. :)

  • http://www.malcolmgroves.com/blog Malcolm

    Nice post, thanks! I’m surprised to read so many people commenting on how far we’ve come. Looking at this post, it actually strikes me that we haven’t come that far. Add better resolution and more colors to those first pictures, they’d pass as a modern GUI.

  • http://logicbox.net Will Kelly

    I still remember the Windows 3.1 File Manager with fondness, there was something quite brilliant about it – not that I remember now what!

  • http://www.ActionLiveChat.com DC

    Great post…..
    Hey everybody, with your Post Comments…state at what point you entered into the world (computing!)

    here’s mine…

    I entered and used Windows 3.0 for the first time in my life! but then I didnt come back to actually using a computer till Windows 3.1

  • http://twitter.com/warmarc Warmarc

    Wow, NeXTSTEP 1989 was really outstanding !

  • http://eugeniogrigolon.com Eugenio Grigolon

    Amazing list. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lars Albinsson

    I agree that not that much has happened. (The Xerox star/80 was even better than todays system. I remember that it only had one file type. You didn’t need the software to view the files made by it. It was as if the OS only had PDF files. Any software could read and edit, but still specialize…)

    I seem to remember early Silicon Graphics had a quite different interface with 3D menus. That was a bit different form the ordinary windowing system.

    (I entered the business in 1982. First GUI experience was programming an Apple Lisa.)

  • ReaderAltos

    Great story!
    The omission of the windowing system on the Unix workstations from mid 80s to 90s is unfortunate. The X Window System still forms the basis of MacOS X and Linux GUI today. The all-out war on window manager between Motif and Sun’s OpenLook was just an example that the Unix vendors didn’t get it – their biggest ‘enemy’ is not the other Unix offering, but Windows on PC on the horizon.

  • http://www.jmikeneedham.net Mike

    I think this is a great article. One notable GUI is missing, Desqview X… though it was short lived, it was around in the 1990 era of PCs.

    Otherwise, I think the article is great and definitely covers the gambit of the evolution of the GUI… which obviously and hopefully would continue to evolve.

  • http://www.srivigneshwar.com Srivigneshwar

    WOW, great article! Thanks for sharing !!

  • Vintergaard

    You forgot Windows ME

  • El Puño

    Now tell me – what OS/GUI does they use in C:S:I

    Their computers can do ANYTHING for them : find ANY data, compare, manipulate, calculate and use them ANY way they like, not to mention the presentation of data ;-)

  • URLrik

    Thanks for the post. Memories and nightmares, but a lot of fun. :)

  • antonio

    I see 3 versions of the default windows

    windows 98 se

    windows milenium

    windows 2000

  • fabio

    I CAN’T WAIT GNOME 3.0!!!!
    WHEN MARCH 2010

  • http://kevin.vanzonneveld.net kvz

    Cool article but leaving out screens of compiz is a mistake. It makes gnome + kde look from the future (instead your last screens where they look like they’ve stayed behind).

  • http://www.gaudiepod.org.uk Digit

    wow yeah. totally agree on the comments about missing out the likes of compiz enhanced kde/gnome. … not to mention… all the other stuff missed out. and this is pretty much all stacking window management…. what of the tiling window managers? oh right… they’re just for a niche market where people prefer practicality above graphical vanity. i keep forgetting that…. it’s about how it looks thats important isnt it. :P

    was very impressed how far ahead nextstep/openstep looked in this.

    i hope the world knows there are more options out there than just kde and gnome.

    an lxde or openbox, maybe with a compatible compositor, and tint2… they can look really gorgeous, and not steal all your resources, which is handy if you actually use your computer for something (other than running your desktop environment). ^_^

  • http://www.raymondselda.com/ Raymond Selda

    This collection is really amazing! We’ve really come a long way. Thank you for this.

  • Tynach

    I was expecting just an overview of old user interfaces from Mac and Windows, and a few others.

    I was pleasantly surprised to even see Linux desktop environments included, with up-to-date images of Gnome and KDE. This was a great time-line of user interfaces, very informative, and includes everything!

    Only thing I find missing is Compiz/Beryl. That had a major impact on Vista and Mac OS X.

    Or, I’m backwards, and Mac OS X had an impact on Compiz/Beryl. Ah, well… That’s kinda why I wish that was included, so I could know.

  • James

    “The 64-bit IRIX operating system was created for UNIX. An interesting feature of this GUI is the support for vector icons. This feature was built into the GUI long before Mac OS X even existed.”

    Mac OS X doesn’t support vector icons… yet. Although it supports vector wallpapers butI think I’m the only person who has noticed

  • James

    “Only thing I find missing is Compiz/Beryl. That had a major impact on Vista and Mac OS X.
    Or, I’m backwards, and Mac OS X had an impact on Compiz/Beryl. Ah, well… That’s kinda why I wish that was included, so I could know.”

    Quartz, Quartz Extreme (GPU accelerated Quartz) and Core Image (Shaders) came YEARS before Compiz/Beryl/Vista

  • Ed

    Apollo (and possibly others) had highly advanced full-colour Unix graphical desktops in the early 80’s. Far ahead of the ones you show as examples

  • shashi


    very Good Things You Have Shared….

  • Richard Nockolds

    I was working at Xerox in the 1980s and used the 8010 – the ‘Star’. Absolutely awesome piece of kit, and when combined with one of Xerox’ early hi-volume laser printers, they made for an unbelievably powerful tool. Just so expensive though, and so few people knew how to sell it – or, indeed, how to buy it. All neatly summarised in a book called ‘Fumbling the Future’.

  • http://www.shayari.com Ankur Shah

    Very nice job! Just like the world history, anyone who works with computers, should know the history of UI.

  • http://www.ecstaticpanic.net Michael Bubrick

    This is absolutely OUTSTANDING! Thanks for such a rich look at the arc of Interface Design over almost 30 years.

  • http://www.rocketcom.com Michal Anne Rogondino

    Wow… I’ve been designing GUI’s since 1989 (don’t do the math – LOL) and I even had a hand in several of these examples you showed. It makes me smile to see the evolution of commercial GUI design and realize that for all that has changed in 30 years, so much has really remained the same. I do believe it’s time for a revolutionary change to our GUI experience – and I’m really curious to learn what it is going to be! There are several up and coming new user experience paradigms and it’s going to be fun to see which one(s) our user community adopts. I think things are about to get interesting again!

  • varun

    nice thanx …..
    totally awesome…… :)

  • Kaiyen

    Com’ooon whrere is Windows 7 announcement and beta release?))That’s a true next step for Windows in terms of stability and user friendliness. I would say it is more of a FIRST step for Windows to that.

  • http://www.cobaltcow.com Nathan Sarlow

    Great list – thanks!

    I have really only followed the Microsoft evolution, but from memory here’s a few things that probably defined their releases in terms of jumps…

    – Windows 3.1 from memory introduced networking
    – Windows98 (Sp2) from memory introduced USB support

    2 of the most significant updates from the original release I think.

  • Josh

    Great post! I loved it!
    Miss the Win 3.11 interface, first GUI I had contact with!

  • http://pebkac-comic.com Grend

    Very nice content here. Great screenshots.
    Really brought back some good memories.

  • http://lerlek.se Jens Axelsson

    I love nostalgia, but there is always a small feeling of disapointment and denial when you see the old things they are ALWAYS much better in your memory.
    But in regards to this article I would like people to enlighten me on why Amiga failed so miserably in the professional segment. When compared to the GUIs at the time it is so fare ahead. And i personaly used it for text editing and DTP and it was user friendlier than Macintosh which by my account was the next best thing. Comments welcome.

  • StarinShock

    Huh! 28 years ago.. but it was as though yesterday. Time like a river…

  • http://www.klavyeweb.org Webmaster

    good is article .. thanks ..

  • Liz

    Awesome article, very funny to see the ancient GUIs. Could Windows 1.0 colors be any worse?? Haha…

  • Damon

    With KDE 4 available for Macintosh, it might finally be worth buying one.

  • lolren

    left out kde 3.5,windows 2000……windows7(beta). the best interface right now is kde4.3 and make the rest look preistoric.hellor from romania, kubuntu user here. muie windows

  • http://www.patrickvalmont.com patrickv

    I may be working in IT but hell , I’ve never seen anything before windows 95 !! lol makes me wanna use these older OS’s especiallt the original MacOSX

  • http://nathan.crause.name Nathan

    A few missing entries here and there – OS/2 Warp 3 is an example. Mac OS 9 is another. At first I thought this was because their UI’s might be considered too similar to the previous generation, but then up popped Windows 98 and threw that theory out the window (pun not intended).

  • http://farmanor.blogspot.com/ FARfetched

    Quite an ambitious project, and you were bound to miss a few. I think the early UNIX GUIs deserve a nod: SunOS (on the Sun 1 workstation, which preceded NeWS — I saw it in action back in 1985). Motif, which others have mentioned, was the default (commercial) window manager for X11 for a very long time.

    I suppose if you get into any detail regarding X11, you should point out that the interface is built in layers:

    1) X11 is a fairly low-level network-capable API used to draw on the screen(s).

    2) A window manager provides the user-level interface, and those can be interchanged to change the look & feel. Motif (mwm) and twm were the two most common until the early 21st century.

    3) A desktop manager can optionally reside on top of the window manager; OpenView (or was it OpenLook? can’t remember) was an early example; KDE and Gnome are the two most popular these days, but there are others (such as AfterStep). Desktop managers are usually associated with a graphical toolkit, and applications built to work with one of them tend to look a little strange on a different desktop manager.

    As another commenter mentioned, NeWS used PostScript to paint the screen. I don’t think NeXTStep was a direct descendant of NeWS, but it used a variant called Display PostScript, and then MacOS X (which *is* descended from NeXTStep) changed to PDF.

    Great walk down memory lane.

  • Jacob Gartner

    The Oldest OS im running is GEM on an old Atari Stacy i found in my Small Engines Class only things missing is its 20MB Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and the track ball, also its missing the back panel on the screen. but it loads the OS and the floppy drive works, all i need is to find a useful way to have it do “something” other then turning it on and showing the GUI version. and the newest is Ubuntu 9.10 with Gnome which works great with no problems on both my Acer Aspire One Netbook and my E-Machines H5270. i do hope to start collecting some of the old time Computers too.
    E-Machines H5270, AMD Athlon 64 @2.71GHZ, 2GB RAM, 160GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 6100 nForce 405, Creative SB Live! 24-bit

    Acer Aspire One ZG5, Intel Atom (With Hyper-Threading) @ 1.0GHZ, 1GB RAM, 120GB HDD, Intel Mobility Graphics Accelerator, Realtek 16-Bit Audio

  • jinesh

    Awsome work !!!! very nice work…..

  • vhael

    and windows seven…?

  • Ray

    Great job! I remember and used several of these starting in 84.

  • http://www.aydesign.net web tasarım

    Great post, I remember the GEOS for my C64.

  • http://www.superuserstudio.com Stu Collett

    I love this post! Wonder how the next 28 years will develop…

  • RoaldA

    What changes, wounder what the future holds!

  • http://www.superuserstudio.com User Experience Consultancy


  • http://www.flashstall.com/ Em

    Brings up memories…

  • http://www.anfworld.com abercrombie and fitch

    What changes, wounder what the future holds!

  • http://www.spiralteck.com webb

    Good to know. I am definately bookmarking this page.

  • w7

    forgot about Windows 7 m8 lol… the rest is great…

  • http://logoworks.com Clayton Shumway

    Wow just looking at those pictures of the old Mac and Windows OS took me back to multi-CD drives and floppys. Great post thanks!

  • http://www.cyprusphone.com Kuzey Kibris

    Where is windows 7 ?
    After my Commodore 64 its the best interface ever :)

  • http://www.graphicdesignclassesonline.com/ graphic design classes

    Incredible post I cant believe how bad user interface design was back then! We have really come a long way but I wonder what designs will be like in another 20 years if they changed this much from the post.

  • http://www.techeye.net/software/software-gui-design-going-to-hell-in-a-basket Fernando Cassia

    You jump from OS/2 2.0 in 1992 to OS/2 Warp 4.0 in 1996.
    You miss OS/2 Warp 3.0 released in 1994 and which featured the IBM Launchpad, very similar visually to what Apple implemented in OSX

  • http://www.itsashirt.com Itsashirt T shirts

    Somebody add the new windows and mac operating system! :)

  • smgbblrtkmhndl

    Man, I remember Windows 3.1 from when I was ten, but I don’t remember it looking like that! Urgh!

  • Ansar

    Superb…. Very informative… Thank you…!!

  • http://www.finansal.org/ forex

    oh my god super

  • http://www.diyeti.org/ diyet listesi


  • http://www.travianforum.com/ travian forum

    perfect nice blog nice job

  • Brennan Young

    Several important omissions, as mentioned by others. And yes, it can be difficult for visual people to understand that GUI design is not just about graphics. Screenshots alone tell us very little about the other important aspects of GUI design. For example, it is not mentioned here that the early Xerox systems introduced the idea of template files. If you wanted a new word processing document, you wouldn’t start the word processor. Instead, you’d double click a WP document template, and it would then open in your preferred editor. (It was document-centric, rather than app-centric). I think the Lisa had a similar approach.

    I would like to see Oberon (both the original ’tiled’ version and ‘System 3’) in here because they were the first decent implementation of component based GUIs (what we would now call ‘plug-ins’ or ‘add-ons’). Oberon also allowed ‘plug-ins’ to run immediately, without restarting the app/system, which is pretty cool. Oberon also made innovations in the area of cursors (up to four cursors on screen at once!), plus mouse button ‘chording’ and ‘interclicking’. Oberon was an academic project, instigated by Niklas Wirth (father of the Pascal family of programming languages) so you can download one of the various distributions and try it out for yourself. It’s weird, but rather beautiful.

    Another omission: BeOS had one extraordinary feature which we all are still missing from even the most modern operating systems. Actually it is more of a design philosophy: Always let the user’s actions be updated at highest priority. That means no wait cursor, no spinning beachball etc. In practice it means that if I click on a widget, I want it to respond NOW, not later, even if the system is burning a disk, downloading a massive file and rendering an animated raytraced scene simultaneously.

    This was an illusion, of course. Sometimes the system or the app really *is* busy, but BeOS was designed to provide immediate feedback to mouse or keyboard actions at *any* time, regardless of what underlying process might be locked up, and this was not just graphical sophistry, rather it was due to some fancy multitasking model. At the very least, you could always get to a shell and kill any offending process. And, yes it worked, and everyone that tried it (back in 1996) said “wow, this OS is really fast!”. In reality BeOS was no faster than Windows or MacOS running on the same hardware, but it *felt* more responsive, which is actually an important design consideration IMNSHO.

  • Brennan Young

    Oh yeah! One more cool BeOS feature I miss: The yellow tabs for the window titles meant you could stack windows on top of each other and switch between them using the tabs. It would have made ‘tabbed browsing’ irrelevant 10 years early.

  • http://www.ogretmis.com Site Tasarım

    Thank you for this great library

  • jay

    crazy awesome

  • stephen

    great info…brings back memories from first time using computers. thank you

  • http://bisnisukm.com ukm

    yeah… feel nostalgic..

  • http://worksheetsforkids.net bunda zidan

    my first OS is still windows 3.1…
    never touch older version

  • http://www.hybridlava.com/ Aisha

    really outstanding collection..amazing list..keep it up!

  • http://lava360.com/ sarfraz raza

    So Inspire, Thanks.Very nice Collection

  • http://www.digitemb.com embroidery punching

    The GUI was initially monochrome, but version 1.0 started supporting color monitors too.

  • http://www.sinfx.org Ev Tasarım

    Thanks for this article !

  • http://www.typewritten.org bear

    Your NEXTSTEP screenshot doesn’t match any NeXT hardware, so it must be at least version 3—probably 3.3, on x86.

    Color wasn’t in 1.0; it was added in release 2.0, to support the then-new NeXTstation Color.

  • http://odevlik.net ödev indir

    yeah… feel nostalgic..

  • http://hotmail NOWERO

    Wish 2 see more up coming OS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.liderblog.net Jack

    great post, but where is “PARDUS” (Turkish national operating system)

  • http://www.torsten-pohl.de/ Torsten

    I think, I’m getting old. I worked with almost all of them…

  • http://www.clippingimages.com Shamima Sultana

    Its been great…really glad to find out the post

  • http://www.mammut-medien.de Daniel

    Am I that old already?
    No seriously that is a great list and it is interesting to see how many of these systems I have used over the years.

    Thanks for the great work.

  • http://xeer.nl Jan sevaan

    Awesome this website.
    Very good view of all operatingsystems.

    Jan Sevaan

  • http://connorcrosby.me Connor Crosby

    Excellent list. Can you update it to include Win7 and Mac OSX Snow Leopard and soon Mac OSX Lion?

  • http://www.neubauer-daniel.de Dominic

    Yes, please include Win7 and MacOSX Snow Leopard to complete this perfect list.
    Thanks in advance for this great work.

  • Nick

    Hi! Excellent review :-)
    Missing Apples OS9 though.

  • http://www.seslisohbetevi.com seslisohbetevi

    Nice try but as have been pointed out you missed few. GEOS for c64 should be there. Not very usable but graphical none the less. Also Evolution, XFCE and later Amiga OS’s (3 and 4 series) should be there.

  • George

    REALLY GREAT POST…………. What happened to win7 and XTrem

  • jocke


    If memory serves me right, OS/2 2.x actually introduced something similar to the “Start” button on Win95.

    Besides, the dock was much more advanced than what Windows has provided (at least up til Win XP). The dock could handle folders with applications. I’m not quite certain that Windown can handle that yet.