Xerox Alto

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The Xerox Alto was an early personal computer developed at Xerox PARC in 1973. It was the first computer to use the desktop metaphor and graphical user interface (GUI).

It was not a commercial product, but several thousand units were built and were heavily used at PARC, other Xerox facilities, and at several universities for many years. The Alto greatly influenced the design of personal computers in the following decades, notably the Macintosh and the first Sun workstations. It is now very rare and is a valuable collector's item.[citation needed]



The Alto was first conceptualized in 1972 in a memo written by Butler Lampson, inspired by the On-Line System (NLS) developed by Douglas Engelbart at SRI, and was designed primarily by Chuck Thacker. Manufacturing was sub-contracted to Clement Designlabs, whose team included Carl J. Clement, Ken Campbell and Fred Stengel.[1] An initial run of 80 units was produced by Clement Designlabs, working with Tony Ciuffini and Rick Nevinger at Xerox El Segundo, who were responsible for installing the Alto’s electronics. Due to the success of the pilot run, the team went on to produce approximately 2000 units over the next ten years.[1]

Several Xerox Alto chassis are now on display at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

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