We live in a world where technology is continually changing. New technology tends to revolutionize existing ones, we can see these changes apparent in apparent in areas such as communication. Technology has went from landline phones to cell phones and from cell phones to smartphones. While communication is a major par of our lives, the technological breakthroughs we are experiencing today, could only be seen the realm of science fiction only fifty years ago. With such technologies at hand, the introduction of virtual reality was inevitable. With the introduction of Virtual reality there also has been major changes to the Operating Systems behind normal PC’s and Virtual Reality Headsets. It has taken humanity only forty six years to go from the first graphical user interface, the Xerox Alto to virtual reality headsets, such as the Oculus Rift. The Xerox Alto, which introduced the use of a monitor and a mouse in the use of computers and considered the ancestor of modern computers shares similarities and yet, stark differences with the modern Oculus Rift. While it can be easily observed how different these machines function and look, in essence they really share the same purpose; Providing graphical interfaces for us, the users. This paper will focus on the history behind both devices, and a cross examination between their functionalities. Ultimately the showing evolution that has gone throughout the years to pave the way for virtual reality to become a present reality.
The Evolution of Operating Systems through the Introduction of Virtual Reality
Technology has made things faster, more dynamic and better in the sense that people are more comfortable, they do not have to put in as much effort as was prior to innovation of certain technologies. It has even become harder to picture a life without the comforts that the human race enjoys as a result of technology. The time taken for communication between across different latitudes and longitudes has been reduced to nanoseconds. Everyday someone somewhere is thinking of an innovative way to improve the technology that exists. These innovations are the brain child of operating systems, GUIs and even virtual reality. All developed and improved by different people, an operating system can be defined as that software that supports a computer’s basic function by managing its hardware and software resources. Virtual reality on the other hand, highlights the use of computer technology in the creation of a simulated environment. While a graphical user interface (GUI) is an interface that allows its users to use visual icons in interacting with electronic devices. This paper highlights a cross examination of Xerox Alto and Oculus Rift.
Operating Systems Evolution
Operating systems developed progressively over time into more advanced complex systems as innovation of the computer grew with time. This evolution took place in seven significant phases the first having the development of the IBM 701 open shop. This was quickly followed by the batch operating system in the late 1950’s. This system functioned by allowing programs to be punched onto cards that were then copied on a tape by professionals and then processed. The phase was succeeded by the multiprogramming phase, timesharing phase, concurrent programming phase, personal computing phase and finally the distributed systems phase (Hansen, 2001). With the progression in phases and decades of research faster and better versions of the initial OS were developed. This was accompanied by a fall in the prices of computer hardware which meant that more innovations could be made which made the GUI possible.
History of Graphical User Interface
The GUI can be explained as the use of icons and pointing devices to control a computer. Early information devices such as radar displays were used in the control of data created on a computer and they set the pace for innovations in graphic interfaces. Also there was need to bypass the cumbersome use of command-line operations in order to transfer data. In 1979 the research center, Xerox Palo Alto developed their first prototype for a GUI (Powel, 1997). They went on to develop a GUI that was linked to a three button mouse which they showed Steve Jobs. Jobs went on to try and develop this on a large scale in an affordable way. This was copied by Steve jobs and his Microsoft development of Windows. This then resulted in a growth in prevalence of GUI such that having it become a standard element in all computers made from then on.
The Xerox PARC had a task that would entail the development of fresh and better technologies. They were the innovators of the GUI, the Ethernet, the mouse, laser printers as well as page description languages. The downside of their research was that they did not have enough funds to develop their concepts too much and thus the benefit of their research was taken up by other companies such as Apple and Microsoft. Their Xerox Alto was the first computer developed to support an operating system that was based upon a GUI (Viki, 2017). It made use of multiple SSI and MSI integrated circuits within its own CPU. The machine that had the GUI was quite expensive but with time they developed more of them that provided a gap for more advanced and commercialized affordable computers by Steve Jobs.
Xerox Alto Functionality
The evolution that was brought about by Xerox Alto provided a way by which individuals would interact better with computers. It formed the basis of the mechanics of personal computers today. It also brought forth a more interactive way of using computers that made it friendly to non-specialists. It became more about the task needed to be done than it was about learning the computers technical details (Computer History Museum, 2019). The workstation itself boasted of having page-oriented displays, disk storage as well as a mouse. Prior to this innovation, communication with computers was done using text; this was a tiresome error prone way of disseminating command, data was also not that easy to read as there was no defined text size and width.
The history of virtual reality dates back to the 1830’s with research done by Charles Wheatstone’s theory that each human eye processes two-dimensions of one object which are then combined by the brain to form a three-dimensional figure (Virtual Reality Society, 2017). The stereoscope was then developed. In a bid to stimulate the human senses, Edward Link developed an aircraft simulator known as the link trainer in 1929 that mimicked a real aircraft feel with turbulence and disturbances. This came in handy in training a lot of pilots. By 1950 more individuals were interested in the science and Morton Heilig developed the Sensorama. In 1987, the name virtual reality came into being and in 1995 the Nintendo virtual boy was innovated as an improvement to previous works bringing to the tale the first 3D viewer experience. More developments ensued with progression of time. The video game industry took up the challenge to develop better and cheaper VR devices. The Oculus Rift became the most recent development in VR.
The Oculus Rift is a VR headset that was released in early 2016. It was manufactured by the Oculus VR, a VR company that was bought by Facebook. The Oculus came as a big break for the innovators of VR as it was the first VR device to reach commercial success. The Oculus Rift came at a time when the world deeply appreciates the meaning and use of VR which means that all the previous models must have come ahead of their time. Palmer Luckey was the innovator. Development took up two stages with the second kit being more polished than the first. The resolution was much higher at 960 by 1080, brought in a brighter screen that reduced chances of motion sickness, made a decrease in latency and quickening the process of black frame switching such that it was not eve noticeable to the human eye.
Differences between Xeron Alto and Oculus Rift
In conclusion, there are stark differences in the functionalities of both Xeron Alto and Oculus Rift. Firstly, their interfaces are different. As discussed in this research the Oculus Rift is the greatest accomplishment thus far in the field of Virtual Reality. It is modern and encapsulates the workings of the previous works of others plus the current needs of individuals in the 21 century to bring a product that can be commercialized and that is practical. The Xeron Alto was the second advancement in operating systems which was not so innovated. It was a simple slow mechanism although it got the job done. It was the Xeron Alto and its predecessors that made it possible for the world to have the Oculus Rift. Differences in their functionality lie in the ability of Oculus to provide crisp images provide an OLED display as well as are used in education and video gaming. More advancement is being made to have it employed in operating systems such that humans could operate it like a computer. The Xerox, however simple it was it provided the base for further development of operating systems as well as assisted individuals perform their duties in computing. It also helped people learn about computers and get creative with it.
Evidently, there has been so much change in the operating systems of personal computers that lead to the innovation of Virtual reality headsets. The innovators of the Xerox operating system provided a backbone for further development in the computing industry up to date. Major evolutions happen from the time of the Xerox Alto when computers where very heavy and immobile to now that people will be view data on properly mobile headsets. More advancement is still underway while the future of VR seems bright.
Computer History Museum. (2019). Xerox Alto – CHM Revolution. Retrieved from https://www.computerhistory.org/revolution/input-output/14/347
Hansen, P. B. (2001). The Evolution of Operating Systems. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4757-3510-9_1
Staff, W. (1997, December 19). Web 101: A History of the GUI. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/1997/12/web-101-a-history-of-the-gui/
Viki, T. (2017, August 4). As Xerox PARC Turns 47, The Lesson Learned Is That Business Models Matter. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/tendayiviki/2017/07/01/as-xerox-parc-turns-forty-seven-the-lesson-learned-is-that-business-models-matter/#3494a7ba7548
Virtual Reality Society. (2017, June 2). History Of Virtual Reality. Retrieved from https://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality/history.html
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