In research for our latest Future Passed piece, I came across the mention of "Dataland" and a spatial data-management system. Hardly the most exciting-sounding concept, couched in academic technobureaucratese from the late '70s, but I started digging around in old forums and email lists, with the hope of finding more about this photo mentioned in The Computer Age: A Twenty Year View. I eventually hit internet gold, finding the original spatial-data-management system study PDF deep in the MIT archives at the Speech interface Group.

Granted, MIT and many other academic and government institutions have come up with countless interface and computer design ideas over the years, but this one has a direct connection to the history of popular user interface design. Apple Macintosh team member and computer scientist Andy Hertzfeld wrote that "DataLand" directly influenced the designers of the original Mac after they saw it at MIT, and explains that Bill Atkinson "adapted the idea for Lisa, allowing icons representing files and directories to be positioned on a scrolling, semi-infinite plane."