John Kary

Steve Jobs visited Xerox in 1979 to see the Xerox Star: a computer promoting a revolutionary graphical user interface.

Jobs loved what he saw. Xerox had developed one of the first GUI's, one that would ultimately lay the foundation for the concept of "windows" (small W) and the "desktop" we know in modern operating systems.

Jobs saw the potential of such a user interface, and an ability to capitalize on Xerox's early work, but deliver it at a fraction of the price. He immediately tasked early Apple employee Bill Atkinson with replicating what the two had seen at Xerox.

Atkinson's finished product not only faithfully reproduced what he and Jobs had seen at Xerox, but Atkinson also inadvertently added a revolutionary feature we now take for granted: the ability for windows on screen to overlap.

Biographer Walter Isaacson writes in Steve Jobs:

"Atkins pushed himself to make this trick work because he thought he had seen this capability during his visit to Xerox PARC."

Atkinson told Isaacson:

"Because I didn't know it couldn't be done, I was enabled to do it."

Sometimes we think we know the rules and limitations of an idea. Until someone comes along and breaks those rules, simply because they didn't know such rules existed.

It's amazing what can be done when nobody tells you you can't.

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