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Xerox Alto Restoration


Today is a big day. An original Xerox Alto, belonging to the Y-combinator, a startup incubator in the valley, came in for restoration. This machine is as rare at it is seminal, and is a gift of Alan Kay, of Xerox and Atari fame.

Invented in nearby Xerox Parc (Palo Alto Research Center), it was so far ahead of it’s time, it’s hard to comprehend. It had the first GUI, complete with a mouse, and the first ever Ethernet interface – Ethernet was invented for this machine. On a 1973 mostly TTL design with originally 128k of memory.

The Alto was only used for research, and never commercialized (but the next generation Xerox Star was, with limited success). Xerox management failed to capitalize on what they had, but Steve Jobs saw it, and understood instantly what it meant. It inspired the MacIntosh, and in turn all modern personal computer GUIs.

I am blessed to be joined in this restoration by several high profile valley engineers, including some of the Xerox engineers that worked on this very machine and its successors, which hopefully I will get to introduce to you in the future videos.

We also have the full original engineering schematics for it, some with notes from the engineers, and access to test software. So my hopes are high that we will eventually get it working.

For much more details and references, see Ken Shirriff’s blog entry corresponding to this video here:

Footage of Steve Jobs copyright of Warner Bros. Entertainment, full video here:

See next video of the restoration Part I:











Xerox Alto

Blit terminal & Xerox Star 1982

Digital Desk (1991) Xerox






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