In Pictures: Of punchcards, platters, and wooden mice. The PC's origin story

Technology marches relentlessly onward, discarding the old to make way for the new. Today’s heroes quickly becomes yesterday’s news.

The Xerox Alto Of all the options available in the first wave of computers, none so clearly resembled the PCs of today as much as the Xerox Alto, which premiered in 1974. Beyond the aforementioned mouse, the Alto boasted software that included a graphical interface complete with menus, icons, and even basic cut-and-paste capabilities. Email and word processing programs, along with an early Paint-style bitmap editor, were eventually written for the machine.

Xerox’s seminal PC was never sold commercially, but thousands of units were used within Xerox and distributed to universities. Later stars such as the Apple II, Radio Shack TRS-80, and IBM PC followed the Alto’s basic formula almost to a T.

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