T171 TMA3 - The Importance Of WYSIWYG
WYSIWYG is an acronym for "What You See Is What You Get" and was first coined in relation to computers in the 80's. "What you see is what you get" was a catchphase from the old TV show Rowan and Martin's Laugh In. A WYSIWYG (pronounced "wiz-ee-wig") editor or program is one that allows an interface or content developer to create a Graphical User Interface (GUI) or page of text, artwork or pictures so that the developer can see what the end result will look like while the interface or document is being created.
The advent of WYSIWYG and its associated GUI opened up the world of computing to the masses. No longer did people have to use Command Line Interfaces (CLIs) to control the computer, the WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus and Pointers) interface that was part of this new technology meant for the first time people didn't need to learn the low level commands of the CLI. The new interfaces were intuitive with their Icons which showed a picture of the program or task and all the user now had to do was click on it to run it and not have to go through the complicated CLI commands. On the Commodore Amiga GUI (Workbench) the handler for the WIMP was even called "Intuition".
WYSIWYG meant for the first time the user was able to construct a document on screen and know that when it was printed the printed copy would be the same as that on screen. This lead to WYSIWYG editors/formatters which revolutionised to office and publishing. For the publishers copy could be edited and formatted and transmitted directly to typesetting machines and printed without the need for costly human typesetting procedures.
The interface to command and control of a computer was limited to a Command Line Interface (CLI) such as the MSDOS prompt you get when you switch to DOS mode in Windows 95 onwards. Because of this limitation the computer was primarily the domain of scientists, academics and computer hobbyists, since commands had to be input sequentially or a batch file of sequential commands had to be executed to achieve anything. "Essentially, operators were trained to perform computer language interpretation in their heads".
Pre-WYSIWYG applications were no better as they used modes, that is to say that once text had been typed or edited the user had to switch to view mode to see the document and then back to edit mode to continue editing. There was no guarantee that once the article was finished that the printed version would resemble anything on the screen.
The GUI is part of an operating system which runs on top of the low level operating system of a computer i.e. in the case of a PC Windows runs on top of DOS. The DOS level is usually written in a low-level language such as assembler however the GUI is usually written in a high level language such as C++.
In 1975 Xerox Parc introduced "WYSIWYG" interfaces, the Xerox Alto started the graphical user interface revolution which has swept through the computer industry. The desk-sized Alto and its commercial descendant the Xerox Star, were the first GUI-based computers. Researchers at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) developed the basic idea of the GUI along with its associated innovations - the mouse, desktop, icons, windows, menus etc. Adapting the technology known as "bitmapping" enabled Xerox PARC to display very precise images on the screen. "Although the ideas in the Xerox Star were revolutionary, it was a huge failure commercially, mainly due to its price tag of $16000".
In 1979 Steve Jobs of Apple had a tour of Xerox PARC and on seeing the Alto realised that this was the future of computing. Realising that this was the way to progress he began to work to bring this technology to the market. Many of the ideas from the Alto turned up in the Apple Lisa in 1982, and finally making the mass market as the Apple Macintosh. Several of Xerox's researchers left to join Apple.
A graphical object is a small picture on a screen that you can manipulate using a mouse or other input device. Each graphical object represents computer task, command or real-world object. The user controls the computer by manipulating the object ( i.e.clicking on it) instead of entering command or using menu options. Graphical objects include icons, buttons, tools, and windows. Graphical objects are the key element in GUIs found on most of today's microcomputers. GUIs are based on the philosophy that people can use computers intuitively, that is to say with minimal training and manipulating the on-screen objects. GUIs often contain menus and prompts in addition to graphical objects because the designers found it difficult to produce icons and tools for every occasion.
Most graphical objects are based on a metaphor in which computer components are represented by real-world objects. For example a user interface with a desktop metaphor might represent documents as files or folders and storage as a filing cabinet. Metaphors are intended to make the tasks the user performs more concrete, easier to explore, and more intuitive.
Since the GUI is graphical in nature has to be represented on the screen by a bitmap. A bitmap defines a display space and the colour for each pixel or bit in the display space. GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) and JPEG (Joint Picture Expert Group JPEG) are examples of graphic image file types that contain bitmaps.
Bitmap files are made up of grids of squares, but they have to represent shapes with curved edges. If you look at a circle in low resolution on the screen the curve will have broken down into a set of steps, this stepping is known as bitmapping.
This means that you cannot enlarge a bitmap image and retain image quality, since enlarging the image enlarges the grid of pixels it's made of. In a colour image, there are shades of grey available as well as pure black. Though a 300dpi image would look little bitmapped when examined closely, by putting a thin rim of grey pixels either side of the line, the eye can be fooled into seeing the image as smoother than it actually is. This effect is called anti-aliasing, and it is also used to make screen graphics look smooth. But the effect must be carefully controlled, or the image will start to look out of focus.
One of the first WYSIWYG text editors was Bravo (1975) developed by Charles Simionyi and Butler Lampson at Xerox PARC; they also developed one of the first drawing programs called Draw. Bravo demonstrated WYSIWYG to its fullest extent at the time. The text could be edited on-screen with such features as boldface, italics and underline with the exact same image produced on printed copy. A prototype text-editor Gypsy was developed by Larry Tesler, these ideas were incorporated into Bravo which then became BravoX. "The first machines to make commercial use of WYSIWYG, GUI and WIMP technology were the Xerox Star (1981), the Three Rivers Computer Company's PERQ (1981), the Apple Lisa (1982) and the Apple Macintosh (1984)". The developers of Bravo and BravoX left to different companies, Charles Symionyi and Butler Lampson left PARC to work for Microsoft, Alan Kay went to Apple. The ex PARC staff went on to develop Microsoft Word and LisaWrite, both products being direct descendants of BravoX .
Initial sales of the Macintosh were slow, but were rescued in 1985 by the launch of Aldus PageMaker ."Aldus PageMaker, the first WYSIWYG typesetting and page makeup program on a personal computer. PageMaker was followed on the Macintosh by MacPublisher, ReadySetGo, Ragtime and Quark Xpress, and on the PC platform by Ventura Publisher" . For the first time editors could be sure what their page would look like before getting a proof copy.
WYSIWYG and the development of the GUI at Xerox PARC opened up computing to the masses. The neat intuitive interfaces meant that people could operate computers easily with very little training and so they could benefit from all that the computer can bring, education, information, games, Internet etc. in a rich multimedia environment. The origins of today's PC operating systems and applications can be traced back to the Xerox Alto and its WYSIWYG and GUI developed by Xerox PARC all those years ago. The Apple Mac's O/S, IBM's O/S2, Microsoft Windows, Commodore Amiga's Workbench, Atari ST's Gem, X-Windows on Unix, Sun's Solaris and many more have their roots in the work done at Xerox PARC in the late seventies/early eighties. Applications such as Microsoft Word can be traced back to the Bravo text editor developed at Xerox PARC. Had Xerox been more interested in computers than copiers and other office equipment it is very possible that IBM wouldn't have had early dominance of the PC market and Microsoft's current dominance of the operating system and office application market may not have taken place. As Robert Cringley says "not commercialising the Alto, Xerox gave up its chance to be a dominant player in the coming computer revolution.".
WYSIWYG has made it mark in the field of publishing changing the way in which thing are done. Now and editor can makeup his page and transmit it directly to computer controlled printing equipment. Because this and ever better technology it possible to change print run very quickly compare with the old methods, so here again WYSIWYG has been of major benefit. "Under the former divisions of labour, it was the trained compositor who paid attention to such details, undistracted by either the larger picture of the page design or the knowledge of the subject. Nowadays you have typesetting that is done either by subject experts who are unaware of the finer points of typography -- or by designers for whom text is just that boring necessity, the grey patches on the page. They prefer to put their energies into page composition, choice of colours and showy handling of pictures and tints".
The companies and organisations mentioned in this report can be found at:
-  "A Brief History of GUI" - by P R Carter - http://prcarter.home.mindspring.com/gui.html#history
- [ "The History of Computers During my Lifetime - The 1980's": - by Jason Paterson http://www.pattosoft.com.au/jason/Articles/HistoryOfComputers/1980s.html
- "A Brief History of Human Computer Interaction" - Brad A Myers - http://www.victoriapoint.com/hci_history.htm
-  "What has WYSIWYG Done To Us" by Conrad Taylor - http://www.ideography.co.uk/library/seybold/WYSIWYG.html
-  Accidental Empires -Robert X. Cringely - p83
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