Y Combinator’s Xerox Alto: restoring the legendary 1970s GUI computer – Ars Technica

Alan Kay recently gave his 1970s Xerox Alto to Y Combinator, and I’m helping with the restoration of this legendary system.

The Alto was the first computer designed around a graphical user interface, and it introduced both Ethernet and the laser printer to the world. The laser printer was invented at Xerox by Gary Starkweather, and networked laser printers were soon in use with the Alto. Y Combinator’s Alto is an “Orbit” model with slots for the four boards that drive the laser printer, laboriously rendering 16 rows of pixels at a time.

The Alto was also one of the first object-oriented systems, supporting the Mesa and Smalltalk languages. Designed by computer pioneer Chuck Thacker, the Alto was revolutionary when it came out in 1973.


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