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DigiBarn Computer Museum Feature Story:
Final Public Demo of the Xerox Star 8010, at Xerox PARC, June 1998
Click on the images to get a larger view

The Elixir Desktop and its grandfather and father, The Xerox Star 8010 and Viewpoint 6085

On June 17, 1998, at a special session called at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, the final public demonstration of the original Xerox Star 8010 computer system and interface was given. This event was sponsored by Bay Area Computer History Perspectives and The Computer Museum History Center (now the Computer History Museum). You can read the original announcement of this event here.

View videos of the entire Final Public Star Demo here
(Quicktime streams)

Taking advantage of such a historic event, I arrived early carrying my Elixir Desktop brochure and wore my original Elixir Desktop T-shirt (featured later in this section). In the image above and below, I posed with the brochures held in front of the Xerox Star 8010 systems (left and below) and the monitor of the Xerox 6085 workstation running Viewpoint. Dave Curbow has a garage full of Xerox hardware that was the basis for the demo and he has created excellent pages about the event including links to other Star and Alto resources online. I was fortunate enough to sit next to Bill English, who worked with Douglas Engelbart at SRI on the NLS system and told me he had two Xerox Altos (working). Bill later donated these Altos to the Computer History Museum.

Me (Bruce Damer) with the Xerox Star 8010 and 6085 at their final public demonstrations

David Liddle
and a cast of the original builders of the Xerox Star 8010 presented a heartfelt, humorous and informative presentation on the background, engineering, trials and tribulations of bringing the first desktop user interface metaphor to market.

Starting the final public Xerox Star 8010 Demo

David Canfield Smith then presented the "last public demonstration" of the original Star system. Dave Curbow is shown here running the video.

Bringing up a prop sheet during the final public demo of the Xerox 8010 Star

He flawlessly undertook the creation of a compound document, demonstrating the clean efficiency of the Star desktop, a consistency that is still lacking in more "modern" desktop metaphors as implemented on the Macintosh and Windows. The session was packed with people crowded outside watching on monitors. Discussion went on until the Xerox PARC staffers had to practically black out the place to get people to move outside. Discussion continued on into the night at a Palo Alto mexican restaurant. 

View videos of the entire Final Public Star Demo here
(Quicktime streams)

  A Direct Descendent of Star: the Elixir Desktop
Click on the images to get a larger view

The Elixir Desktop and its applications converted ordinary PCs into graphical workstations to create document jobs for large printing systems from Xerox and other manufacturers, a task the Xerox 8010 Star and Viewpoint 6085 systems failed to do.

Elixir Desktop from Xerox brochure

Coding began: August 1988
Product came to market: 1990

The Elixir desktop was and is the most successful and sole surviving direct rendition of the Xerox STAR 8010 interface on the industry standard PC platform. Icons were taken directly from Star/6085 and scaled up for the higher resolution Sigma and Wyse monitors. I built a complete windowing system and custom icons were designed by Ed Regan of Down East Technologies in Searsport Maine. We studied the Xerox 6085, Star 8010, 3 Rivers PERQ and Apple Macintosh systems to make our decisions in the UI sphere. I decided to implement drag and drop. The direct manipulation metaphor of object copy/move was not fully implemented but object properties were. Pulldown menus on both windows and on the whole system extended beyond the Macintosh's limited implementation of a single menu strip. The Elixir desktop brought a desktop metaphor and suite of applications to the PC before Windows 3.0 and long before the appearance of a desktop container in Windows 95. See the whole story of Elixir and its products.

Most powerful GEM Elixir Object Desktop from an October 1990 T-Shirt showing the reconfigurable process flow system

Extending to a general object desktop metaphor. Built to drive the Xerox Docutech system launched that year. The Elixir desktop served as an integrator of the Elixir applications for forms, font and image creation, Ventura Publisher for long document composition, and numerous DOS applications and drivers for printers, tape drives and specialized floppy disk formats. The Object Desktop featured a job ticket creator to drive the Docutech and other Xerox systems.

Know anything more about the Xerox Star or other systems? Contact us!

See Also:

Our extensive collection of Xerox computer systems and artifacts at the Digibarn

The full story of the Elixir products and the Elixir company

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