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The Blit: an early Unix GUI on a big, green, portrait screen

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Built in 1982 at Bell Laboratories, the Blit provided one of the first proper GUIs, displaying information from a Unix system on 800 x 1024 screen.

BLIT early graphical user interface
BLIT early graphical user interface

AT&T Tech Channel has posted an amusing video from 1982 showcasing the Blit, an early graphical user interface (GUI) for Unix systems. Developed by researchers at Bell Laboratories, the device boasts a Motorola 68000 processor and a full "quarter-megabyte of memory," both used to power a 800 x 1024 dot portrait screen. Unlike earlier systems such as the Xerox Alto, the Blit's interface has a lot in common with later window managers — including Windows itself — with users able to drag, drop, and resize panes using a three-button mouse. And as the video's narrator points out to an incredulous listener, graphics aren't only useful for playing games — commercialized as the AT&T 5620 terminal, the Blit sold well to early-adopting business customers, being used for applications such as integrated circuit design. Head over to AT&T Tech Channel for more about the history of this forward-thinking system.