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Widgets are coming to Apple devices this fall. Here's what came first

30 years of tiny apps.

Apple this week revived something that by all accounts seemed to be on its way out. Widgets, or the small apps designed to display information and solve simple tasks, are now more present in OS X and now iOS than they’ve ever been. As part of OS X Yosemite, and iOS 8 — both of which are coming this fall — widgets can be found with a flick of the finger (or mouse) and show small, easily-digestible bits of information. That’s not a new thing for Apple, which had a similar idea of tiny apps 30 years ago, or a slew of other companies that have pushed the medium forward. Here’s a brief history of where widgets and tiny apps have been ahead of where Apple’s taking them this fall.

A brief history of widgets

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Apple Desk Accessories (1984)
Apple’s desk accessories were originally called desk ornaments, and were created by founding Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld off an idea from fellow early Apple employee Bud Tribble. The goal was to get single-purpose apps like a calculator, clock, puzzle game, sticky note, and control panel for various settings. In a time when the Mac could only handle one application at a time, these smaller apps were designed to be super lightweight and single-serving in their nature. Hertzfeld has a detailed narrative on how the original feature came to be on Folklore. (James Friend)