If it weren’t for a monumental management failure, your computer, tablet or smartphone may well have carried Xerox’s logo.In the early 1970s, the company’s photocopiers were ubiquitous throughout the world’s offices. The company’s name had even entered the English language as a verb – to photocopy was to ‘xerox’.
But Xerox’s management were also interested in the potential of computing, and so they established a subsidiary to develop new technologies: the Palo Alto Research Center, aka Parc, in California.
By 1973, the scientists and engineers at Parc had invented a personal computer called the Xerox Alto. While the other early computers were cumbersome to operate, the Xerox Alto was very similar to a PC today, with a mouse to navigate an intuitive graphic user interface. Users clicked on icons and opened windows, without needing to type in commands to open a program.
It included the first WYSIWYG (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get) word processor, called Bravo, that allowed you to edit text on screen – all features that we now take for granted. The device was apparently so appealing that relatives of Parc’s employees would often come into the labs at night to get a glimpse of the future technology.