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The Xerox Star, officially known as the 8010, was a revolutionary computer
workstation released as a commercial product in 1981. The Star workstation
hardware was known as a Dandelion, or Dlion. It's CPU was a microprogrammed
bit-sliced running a virtual machine for the Mesa computer language, a
direct precursor to Modula 2 and Modula 3.. The Star was developed by the
Xerox Systems Development Division, and not at the famous Xerox Palo Alto
Research Center as commonly supposed. Many of the ideas in Star originated
at at PARC, such as WYSIWYG, Ethernet, and network services such as
Directory, Print, File, and internetwork routing. However, the product
versions were distinct from the research versions.
The Xerox Star was not originally meant to be a stand-alone computer, but
was part of an integrated Xerox "personal office system" that also connected
to other workstations and network services via Ethernet. The Xerox Star was
the first commercial computer to use a graphical user interface (GUI) with
the familiar desktop with icons metaphor and a mouse. In this it lent
several designs from the earlier Xerox Alto computer.
The Xerox Star is considered by many to be a commercial failure because only
about 25 thousand were sold. However, without the Star product, today's
computers would be much poorer.
There is a common story that a trip to Xerox PARC by Apple Computer's Steve
Jobs led to the GUI and mouse being integrated into the Apple Lisa and,
later, the first Apple Macintosh. This is only partially true. Steve Jobs
was shown the Smalltalk-80 programming environment which had a small portion
of the GUI features in the Star, for example it didn't have a desktop and
icons. The Lisa engineering team saw Star at its introduction and came back
and converted what had been a text based user interface into a GUI. The
initial Macintosh interface was a simplified version of the Lisa interface,
e.g. single-tasking, supporting only a single floppy drive instead of the
hard drive of the Lisa (and Star).