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The Xerox Star 8010 "Dandelion"

Click here for larger image view
(thanks Dave Curbow)

Xerox Star shwoing spreadsheet, sharts etc.

The Xerox Star 8010 "Dandelion" is one of the most significant introductions of any computer system. The DigiBarn museum has a special interest in the lineage of Xerox workstations but especially the Star - Viewpoint - Globalview series as these represented the most complete implementation of the "Desktop Metaphor" of any systems until the advent of mature Desktop graphical interfaces later on the Mac and PC/Unix/Linux in the 1990s. These systems were a full 15 years ahead of their time with sophisticated WYSIWYG document composition, built in Ethernet, email, scanning networked laser printing, development environments including Smalltalk, and much more. The Xerox workstations, while a commercial failure, occupy an important position in the lineage of visual computing systems. There is a lot packed into the "D Machines" or "Wildflowers" and a big story behind them, which will be elaborated on this site in the future. DigiBarn Museum Curator Bruce Damer's work on the Elixir Desktop was directly inspired and derivative of the graphical desktops you see here.

The DigiBarn Computer Museum wishes to thank Alan O Freier for his donation of two Dandelions, one working!

System Specifications

April 27, 1981

Retailed for $16,595 in 1981

Units Shipped:
Tens of thousands

Menu-driven, icons, mouse, high-resolution graphics on a 17 inch monitor, built in and external storage devices, Ethernet

Numerous applications, see the Bushy Tree diagram

Primary developers:
David Liddle, David Canfield-Smith, Ralph Kimball, ???

View videos from the time of the Xerox Star (1982-84) and from the Final Public Star Demo (1998)
(Quicktime streams)


Interview in New York for CBS Sunday Morning News (on anniversary of Xerox Star 8010) (aired Sunday April 27th, 2003

The Xerox Star 8010 interface including the (Xerox Star Icon) World According to Norm Cox

High quality Polaroid shots of the Xerox Star 8010 interfaces
with some early Icon design decisions (1981)

See "Maze War" a multi player 3D game
played in the 1970s at Xerox PARC and later on Xerox D-Machines networks, this could be one of the first "avatar" 3D environments.

First Booting of the 6085s
at the DigiBarn in June 2002

Successor to the Star include the Xerox 6085 workstation series.

Our scan of a Star 8010 mouse pad (works!)

The Elixir Desktop and Applications
, the only surviving direct descendent of the Star 8010.

DigiBarn's Xerox Alto II XM and the Alto Story

Xerox Star 8010 and related Online and other Published Informational Resources

The Digibarn's extensive collection of Xerox computers and other artifacts

Our extensive Xerox Documentation including the 8010 Star

The Xerox "Star": A Retrospective
, a paper appearing in IEEE Computer, September 1989 and also in the book Human Computer Interaction: Toward the Year 2000 by Morgan Kaufman treatment of Star and 6085/Viewpoint, includes screen shots. See the full sized screen shot of the Star/Viewpoint screen here.

Another great article is Designing the Star User Interface, by David Canfield Smith, Byte, Issue 4/1982 (reproduced courtesy Marcin Wichary).

Dave Curbow's extensive Xerox Star and other Historical Xerox Documents.

The DigiBarn story on the "final" public demonstration of the Star 8010 and its announcement.

Al Kossow's Alto page featuring the full story of the Xerox D* Machines.

Alan Freier's pages on the history of the Xerox D* Machines, Mesa PrincOps and Wildflower, also see Alan's "Wildflower" web site that was actually hosted for a time on an actual Dandelion with a custom built web server.

Dick Sweet's ACM SIGPLAN paper on the Xerox Development Environment.

Chris Heiny's excellent Star, Alto and 6085/Mesa Pages.

Dan Halbert's SmallStar, a guide to programming the Star user interface. Also see Allen's "Watch What I Do" set of documents related to UI & design.

See the DigiBarn Museum's pages on the Xerox Alto and 6085/Viewpoint

Book Chapter: "Personal Distributed Computing: The Alto and Ethernet Software" by Butler Lampson in A History of Personal Workstations, ed. A. Goldberg, Addison-Wesley, 1988, pages 291-344. See the Bootstrap Institute's excerpts from this book here.

See also: the DigiBarn Computer Museum Links Regarding the Birth of the Graphical User Interface

Digibarn virtual visitors' commentary on the Xerox Star 8010

From Digibarn virtual visitor Claude Hutcheson (May 2005):

As a bit of history: The industrial design team that developed the product casework, appearance and ergonomics were: Wayne Cathy, Claude Hutcheson, and Tom Noonan. We were based in Dallas, Texas in the Xerox Industrial Design Human Factors (IDHF) Group, working with PARC. I attended the first public showing in Chicago and remember that right across the aisle was the IBM booth which was for the most part empty. The Xerox booth had crowds eight to ten deep looking at the GUI displays. It was a very rewarding project to be on. Also in the IDHF, Graphics, was Norm Cox who developed the first icons for a GUI, and went on to design other GUIs for several companies. the group was headed by Robin Kinkead, keyboard guru in human engineering.


Hello Claude, thanks so much for your comment and I assume that you are referring to the launch of the Star 8010? I will definitely include your info on the Star page and thank you for this. There is so little online at this level of detail of the Xerox history and this is indeed why I started the DigiBarn project in the first place!


Hi Bruce, no we didn't do any design on the Alto.  At the same time there was an effort to take the Alto to the market,  the Dallas group was working on the design of the Xerox 850, a word processing system (WYSIWYG display, console, KB and a touch pad instead of a mouse, called a CAT, capacitance activated transducer)).  I realize that the 850 product was one that the Corporate officers could understand since it was associated with the electronic typewriter (my opinion only) and the Alto lost out,  a great loss.     We in the Dallas Office Products Division aka Information Products Division also developed a personal computer, the project name being WORM (wonderful office revolutionizing machine) which ran an early spreadsheet, wordprocessing sw, etc. but the IBM PC was announced around that time and the Xerox 820 PC sank.

I am not certain, it has been a long time ago, but we developed numerous concepts, presented in foam-core models of the Star follow-on, with floor consoles, tabletop processors intergated into the display etc., but ultimately I believe IDEO (called ID2) at the time did the industrial design on the 6085. In Dallas we did a briefcase laptop product around that time which was called the Sunrise using an early Hitachi display and  yes!  a small tape media storage.  Ancient history.  I am about to buy a CompactFlash 1gig for my Nikon camera, I can't help but reflect on the size of it vs the shoebox size hard drive in the 8010.     Cordial regards,


From Bill Harper, formerly with Versatec, which developed a CAD system on the Xerox STAR:

See Bill's page on the Versatec Expert CAD system. Excerpted here:

User on the Versatec Expert CAD system
, running on Xerox STAR

As the STAR became known within Xerox's Engineering community as a workstation with bit-mapped graphics, a mouse, menus, and icons.  There was one group was Xerox's E.I.S. group, who took the STAR platform and developed several CAD/CAM packages for it. The Xerox E.I.S. group under a re-organization was report in to a Xerox s subsidiary called Versatec.  Versatec was know mostly for their great eltrostatic plotters that were used on large CAD/CAD systems, like Intergraph, Calma, Computer Vision, Auto-trol, Unigraphics, Cadem, Catia, Daisy, Mentor, AutoCad, and many many others, so the match seem like natural fit.  Most of the CAD systems sold at the time were mostly "turn key" so when you bought  a system you pretty much got everything, from the computer hardware, to the CAD software, down to the plotter.  A good history of CAD can be found at  https://mbinfo.mbdesign.net/CAD-History.htm .

The Versatec E.I.S. Expert was Announced to the Market Place in 1984 with CAD tools for Drafting (Expert Drafting) and Drawing (Expert Illustrator). At the Design Automation Conference (DAC) in June of 1985 the Expert Engineer package was added to the product to support Electronics' design automation (EDA) market.  As with the Star, this product never really took off in the market, and the organizational match within Xerox put Versatec at odds with all of its major OEM's. 

By comparison most other CAD system environments at the time were basic and did not have the advanced windowing and networking capabilities as the Versatec/Xerox Expert.  I don't think many customers really understood the value of a networked CAD workstation.   Not until the mid to late 80's companies like Sun Microsystems, Apollo Computer, HP and even the IBM began making cost effective networked workstations that these CAD vendors could port their software to.   And of course there is the whole IBM x86 PC story

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