back to article A refined Apple desktop debuts ahead of Wednesday’s big iThing launch

Apple will on September 7th stage one of its live infomercials to launch products expected to include this year’s iPhone – complete with satellite messaging capabilities – plus wireless earbuds, an enhanced smart watch, and maybe even some new tablet computers. But if you can’t wait until Wednesday’s event, you can have a new …

  1. redpawn


    Those were the days. I remember thinking a GUI was for people to stupid to learn commands. I also thought no one would ever need more than 64k of RAM. While this needs more than 64k, it is still in ballpark. One member of our astronomy club told me I would find use for a Terabyte if it were available in 1983. I laughed at the absurdity. That said, I will have to dust off my IIc and try to get the program loaded. Wish me luck...

    1. aki009

      Re: Memories

      I don't believe that GUIs back then were for people too stupid to learn commands.

      It's obvious -- given the state of the icons -- that folks using those things were simply engaged in a never-ending game of trying to guess what a particular shape was supposed to mean.

      Every click was an adventure.

      That means that all of those users were courageous explorers, following in the spirit of Dr. Livingstone into the unknown.

      1. Snowy Silver badge

        Re: Memories

        Once you figured it out it just clicked?

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Memories

      More specifically, back in the days when people knew how to program.

      I really don't understand how my bank app runs to 121MB. Up until Windows 98 I didn't even have that sort of memory in my machine. Now a single app is larger.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Memories

        people know how to program now. You know, like the ones writing the emulator.

        People back then were not better programmers. Programming was just different. Their programs were just as buggy which is why everything used to crash all the time.

        1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          Re: Memories

          Sometimes programmers wrote buggy routines which hooked the C64's clock interrupt vector. Sometimes programmers wrote buggy terminate-and-stay-resident programs for the IBM PC. Sometimes programmers wrote buggy OS extensions for the Mac. Sometimes programmers wrote buggy ... I don't know what they were called on the Atari 400, 800, ST, on the Apple II, on the Amiga, or the on TRS-80. You get the idea.

          (Icon, because you pressing [Esc] didn't work when your system locked up.)

        2. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: Memories

          When software got hardwired into ROMs and the idea of on the fly updates was a mere fantasy, the quality of a product could make or break a company.

          That's not to say that software and firmware didn't have bugs, but "crash all the time" is a lot more descriptive of the way things are now, now that software doesn't have to necessarily work, just mostly work and whatever doesn't can be fixed in the update that may or may not happen.

          For instance, how many times has Google "fixed" the calculator app? Answer - many times. Now, how many times was any part of the firmware of the Psion 3a organiser updated? Answer - zero times because it was in ROM so it had to work mostly correctly from the beginning.

        3. FIA Silver badge

          Re: Memories

          People back then were not better programmers. Programming was just different. Their programs were just as buggy which is why everything used to crash all the time.

          I'd go so far as to say back then people were in general worse programmers. Not from a problem solving sense, that's just down to the individual, but simply by having a much smaller foundation of knowlage to build upon.

          Programming is a complex, relativly immature skill, and as with any skill it takes a few generations before all the lessons really get learnt.

          Programmers now have the benefit of the many years of learning. The increases in memory and computational power allow languages with features that would've been impossible 30-40 years ago, (Rust springs to mind here).

          Thing is, we're still only at the beginning, really.

          In another 20-30 years programmers will be better still and the tools they used will have evolved further to eliminate more common classes of easy mistakes.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Memories

        "I really don't understand how my bank app runs to 121MB"

        Apart from the graphics, there's probably also a library or three hard linked into the app with loads of functions, only one or two of which are actually used. Maybe a left-pad function that was too hard for the dev to code themselves?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Memories

          Reminds me at work how the team managing updates uses a 2 MB package to deploy a 140 KB picture to our desktops...

          And complain that I am using too much bandwidth if I do it using a logon script with 1 line of code...

      3. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Memories

        The ICON occupies more memory than an old-school program used to!

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Memories

        I think you mean how to program effectiantly using limited resources.

  2. theOtherJT Silver badge

    If only desktop environments...

    ...were still that clean, clear, and sensibly laid out. See how all the scroll bars don't run away and hide when you're not looking; leading to this awkward "waggle the mouse around near the window border waiting for them to come back". Revel in the glory of the menus being immediately visible at the top of the screen instead of hiding behind some random three dots... or three bars... or possibly a picture of a gear for some reason... where it now takes an extra click to find anything.

    1. Phones Sheridan Bronze badge

      Re: If only desktop environments...

      If it's Windows 11 I can help you with them thar scroll bars.

      Settings -> Accessibility -> Visual Effects*

      In there I usually turn on Scrollbars, and turn off Transparancy and Animation.

      * this is where the setting resides in my current Windows 11, but at the current rate of change, it may have moved again by the time you read this.

      1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

        Re: If only desktop environments...

        Next version will have it moved to Visual Defects

    2. Wade Burchette

      Re: If only desktop environments...

      It took me the longest time to figure out how to print on an iPhone. The option to print was hidden down in a menu which had no scroll bar. There was no visual cue saying that you could scroll. It took me the longest time to figure that out. And even when you do scroll, there is still no visual confirmation of how far up or down you are in the menu. But hey, the design sure is pretty. So I guess being pretty is more important than being easy-to-understand.

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: If only desktop environments...

        "So I guess being pretty is more important than being easy-to-understand"

        Entirely correct. So much more important that it takes absolute precedence over everything else - even functionality. We're in the hands of designers who've been told all their lives that they're enormously talented, and who believe it absolutely regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

        1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

          Re: If only desktop environments...

          for grumpy people complaining about UI

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: If only desktop environments...

      Or be like RISC OS and have the menus a different mouse button click away, instead of taking up valuable screen space with something infrequently used.

      And one of my favourite features, dragging either scroll bar with the right mouse button performs a two dimensional scroll, so you can go the the part of the window you want immediately.

      1. milliemoo83

        Re: If only desktop environments...

        Fun fact: if you dragged a window on RISC OS with the right mouse button, it dragged it and kept it in the background.

        1. skswales

          Re: If only desktop environments...

          Other fun fact - clicking in the scroll bar with the right button scrolled the contents of the window in the opposite direction, so it was easy to quickly scroll back a page, look at something, keep scrolling forward without moving the mouse to opposite ends of the scroll bar. And here we are in 2022...

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: If only desktop environments...

      It almost as if screens are getting smaller and lower resolution and so we need to save every pixel for the work area.

  3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge


    Wasn't 64K from a small expansion card? There were only enough address bits for 48K RAM natively. The rest was ROM, I/O, and expansion card space. Expansion cards could intercept the bus to swap chunks of address bits for other uses, like another 16K RAM that was very difficult to use.

    Maybe I'm mistaken - I really shouldn't be remembering any of this.

    1. Steve K

      Re: 64K

      Was it like sideways RAM on certain BBC Model B expansion cards?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: 64K

        Not quite. On the Beeb, it was designed for that function, (although really designed for ROMS, not RAM). Most earlier micros did it as a dirty hack, often in different ways by different 3rd party add-ons. The TRS-80 model IV was designed to cope with 128KB with two switched 64KB banks too.

        Most of the earlier 8-bit systems had extra RAM in one form or another from 3rd parties as RAM prices fell, but generally only the later ones had that as a designed in option.

    2. DougMac

      Re: 64K

      They were probably referring to the Apple II+ picture shown. With the II+, you got a language card which held the top 16k of RAM if you wanted to hold your basic or whatnot in it and bank switch in RAM.

      Otherwise, you had the lower 48k for program RAM, and the top 16k for ROM and I/O space.

      The 6502 could address the full 64k, but the top space was ROM and I/O and gaps.

  4. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

    Similar to ...

    GEM ("Graphics Environment Manager") by Digital Research was a desktop manager put out by Digital Research in 1984 for various non-Apple computers and operating systems, including MS-/PC-/DR-DOS. Apple's "Mouse Desk" was published in 1985. Berkeley Softworks' GEOS ("Graphical Environment Operating System") - an entire OS + applications - for Apple IIs came out in 1998.

    GEM is still available in various incarnations as freeware and/or open source, but isn't being actively developed; PC/GEOS is available on GitHub and seems active (last pull request was 9 days ago).

    1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Re: Similar to ...

      Arrgh! Typo! GEOS for Apple II was 1988, not 1998.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Similar to ...

        That's a blast from the past!

        It came out in 1986 on the Commodore 64. It's one of those quite astonishing pieces of programming that shouldn't really be possible - not only did they get a GUI-based OS into 64kB, but there was enough space left over to run applications.

        1. NATTtrash Silver badge

          Re: Similar to ...

          Ahhh, thanks for bringing back that memory! I did whole theses on GEOS, which worked (grumpy alert!) better than some of that new stuff we have nowadays...

          ...and then had to let an OKI (8 pin, 9 pin?) matrix printer run all night so I could submit it on time. As a student on an "economically compressed" living space, that sound through the night didn't really rock you to sleep.

  5. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Should run nicely under emulation on a raspberry pico

    If only we knew how to shrink keyboards without losing functionality

    1. Ken G Silver badge

      Start by growing smaller fingers.

      1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

        growing smaller seems difficult...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    GUIs have their uses

    and I write that as someone whose day job is running Linux servers from the CLI.

    A decent GUI will reflect the underlying logic of a system without the need to go on a week course that will be forgotten come Monday. You load up a screen. Immediately you see a section greyed out with a checkbox header that says (something like) "Enable feature <x>". When checked, all of a sudden the section becomes live and you can enter further parameters.

    OK, you may still need to know what they are. But at least you haven't had to wade through pages of "man" details to work out which --option or --parameter=<> you had to supply.

    1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Re: GUIs have their uses

      "A good GUI will reflect the underlying logic..."

      This also is true of text menus. But neither type of menu helps much when the program is an agglutination of poorly-selected and/or barely-related features. And some random-Swiss-Army-Knife-featured programs are that way because the formats of the files they manipulate are randomly-featured. And the formats of files they manipulate are randomly-featured because the standards underlying the files are randomly-featured. And the standards underlying the files are randomly-featured because the various industry working groups and consortia have made them that way.

      Sometimes it's turtles all the way down.

  7. Tron

    Anything can be used to surf the net.

    It should be easy enough to filter a net connection through a Pi or equivalent with a browser translation layer, plug absolutely anything into it and surf. Apple II. ZX Spectrum. Even a ZX81 - preferably with the hi-res graphics card. Use a joystick as a mouse. It would just need to convert text and images appropriately. It's all just data.

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      Re: Anything can be used to surf the net.

      It was even possible to surf the Net on Minitel at a time

  8. 45RPM Silver badge

    I’ve installed it on my Apple IIe. It works very well. I’m not certain that it’ll tempt me into using the old thing as a daily driver again but it’s fun to play with. Briefly. Briefly because when youngest son saw that the Apple II was turned on he absolutely had to have a game of Prince of Persia.

    And who can blame him?



    > but sadly we can’t find a browser to run in this environment so you could use it to read The Register.

    I believe the common way to get online in the Apple II era was to dial up to the Unix server of your local university, after which you'll be able to access UUCP and e-mail.

    Modern internet niceties like web browser didn't exist in the late 70s and early 80s. And after they did you were basically constrained to running Lynx on the university's system after dialing in.

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