Artifact Details


Yesterday’s Computer of Tomorrow: The XEROX Alto

Catalog Number



Moving image


How did personal computing start? Many credit Apple and IBM for this radical shift, but in 1973, years before the Apple II and IBM PC, Xerox built the Alto, a computer its makers thought could become the “computer of tomorrow.” The Alto embodied for the first time many of the defining features of personal computing that seem natural now, over forty years later: individual use; interactive, graphical displays; networking; graphical interfaces with overlapping windows and icons; WYSIWYG word processing; browsers; email; and the list goes on . The birthplace of this pioneering machine was Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), which assembled a remarkable collection of computer scientists and engineers who made real their idea of “distributed personal computing.”

Original members of the PARC team present live demonstrations of, and discuss, some of the Alto’s remarkable achievements: Tom Malloy and Charles Simonyi presents Bravo, the WYSIWYG word processor; Bob Sproull shows the graphics programs Markup and Draw; Doug Brotz displays the email client Laurel; Dan Ingalls reveals the breakthrough programming environment and language Smalltalk; and John Shoch surveys the Alto’s other accomplishments. The program closes with an audience Q&A session with the PARC presenters. The event was moderated by David C. Brock, Director of the Museum’s Center for Software History. This event is a unique opportunity to learn about yesterday’s computer of tomorrow that profoundly shaped our world.




Brock, David C., Moderator
Brotz, Douglas K., Speaker
Ingalls, Daniel H., Speaker
Malloy, Tom, Speaker
Shoch, John, Speaker
Simonyi, Charles, Speaker
Sproull, Bob, Speaker


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Mountain View






Computer History Museum

Lot Number