No Mac zealots, Apple didn't invent the dock

Monday, July 21, 2008 by Draginol | Discussion: Personal Computing

With Dell taking the Windows experience to the next level with the introduction of the Dell Dock, I've seen a lot of online buzz about it.  Most agree that the Dell Dock is really good but intermixed are a lot of Mac fans who use terms like "Mac rip off" or how it's a copy of the Mac dock.

imageMac zealots have a long and glorious history of retroactively claiming pre-existing concepts as being invented by Apple.  For example, the modern "widget" (end user created applets that use Javascript) was not invented by Apple.  They also didn't first appear in Konfabulator either. They appeared in Stardock DesktopX years earlier. Apple zealots usually counter by arguing that things like desktop accessories from 1981 "invented" the concept (as if the average user was going to whip out small assembly language programs).

imageI think most rational people agree that the modern widget is a mini application that can be created by end users that are tied together with a high level scripting language (i.e. Yahoo Widgets, Dashboard, Sidebar Gadgets, DesktopX).  And DesktopX borrowed the concept from IBM's worksplace shell which in turn was inspired by prior art as well.

But the controversy over widgets is nothing compared to the claim that Apple somehow invented the concept of docks.  Even allowing for the history of NeXT with its side dock, the dock concept is ancient.

 Stardock, for example, has been doing "docks" since 1994.  Object Desktop for OS/2 included things like Tab LaunchPad and Control Center. You don't see Stardock fans complaining that every sidebar is a "rip off" of Control Center. And Control Center certainly didn't invent the concept of a side-based bar or dock either.

You would be hard pressed to find many companies that have been continuously producing a dock and a sidebar as long as Stardock has -- 14 consecutive years of development. I think it's fair to say that we weren't "inspired" by an Apple OS that wouldn't exist for 7 more years from the time we started doing this sort of thing.

Tab LaunchPad on OS/2 circa 1994

Stardock makes no claims of having invented the dock.  We called our first dock Tab LaunchPad because IBM itself had created a dock for OS/2 2.0:

IBM OS/2 LaunchPad circa 1992

But let's say you're a true die-hard Steve Jobs zealot and want to argue that NeXT "invented" the dock. You'd still be wrong as docks were part of Acorn computers from the early 80s.  The point, of course, isn't who invented the dock, the argument of course is whether companies like Stardock (who wrote the Dell Dock) were somehow ripping off or stealing or what have you from the MacOS dock and I think you can see why this is such an obnoxious and offensive argument - we've been making docks since before Apple had figured out how to do preemptive multitasking.

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words.  Here is a picture of what the Macintosh looked like in 1996 (System 7.5) along with a picture of Stardock Object Desktop in 1996:

image vs. image
Mac 1996 vs. Stardock Object Desktop 1996: Which desktop do you think more closely resembles today's modern desktop? Note that Object Desktop was written during the Windows 3.1 era.

Stardock doesn't run around claiming that it invented the modern desktop experience. We don't imply or assert that everyone else is "ripping us off". Some ideas are just obvious.

The Dell Dock represents the continuing evolution of the desktop experience. Like all improvements to the user experience, inspiration can be found everywhere. But when advocates of a company or an operating system try to lay exclusive claim to all such improvements, they diminish the hard work, innovation, and inventiveness by thousands of other people from around the world who often have worked in obscurity with little glory. It is bad enough that these innovators don't get credit they deserve, it's even worse when they are so often smeared as copying those who came after.

Other Pictures:

Dell Dock

Stardock ObjectDock

Stardock ObjectDock Plus (4 different docks)

Stardock Impulse Dock

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Reply #21 Monday, July 21, 2008 8:18 PM
Warning - Incoherent RANT -

Now I am really confused so a Mac is defined by What? When? and is a ripoff how? I missed most of the point of why we care. When personal computers began a MAC was its own machine with its own GUI which was inspired by the work of Xerox and other early pioneers. Long past are the days when the Mac was really even a Mac its just another OS on Intel Hardware. With a BSD Unix OS and a GUI overlay, which could run on everyone's PC. So Mac is not only a ripoff who's hardware failed because they tried to remain proprietary in a collaborative world. They haven't got the stones to compete their superior software on the open market with everyone else. Now you are telling me they want to take credit for the Dock too?

It's just not possible no one could be that arrogant and I refuse to believe it. I am taking my mouse (another Mac invention I suppose?) and going home. Slinks off looking for a sedative...
Reply #22 Monday, July 21, 2008 10:48 PM
what is so special about a dock on your desktop, i have an object dock on mine from SD. I did not find it anything special other than having the convenience of doing multitasking easier in the sense i can have most of the programs i need at my finger tips.
Reply #23 Tuesday, July 22, 2008 3:47 AM


Of course you forget that Apple invented Unix as well

And Brad: I think it's time to reveal your time machine to the world, too many of these occurences and people will find out anyway

Reply #24 Tuesday, July 22, 2008 4:32 AM

Did you read the article?

I did. But as I said I am not sure whether RISC OS had its dock before NEXTSTEP did.

Was it 1987? If it was 1988, the first released version of NEXTSTEP could have been out earlier. I don't know.
Reply #25 Tuesday, July 22, 2008 5:13 AM
Yeah, and if Apple had its way, James Watt, Alexander Bell and Madam Curie would have no claim to fame, either.

However, Apple DID create Steve Jobs... cos without Apple he'd be just another insignificant wart on the backside of humanity.

As is, he's Mr Smug... a turtleneck wearing blot on computing honesty.
Reply #26 Tuesday, July 22, 2008 6:36 AM
so who is worse, Bill Gates or Steven Jobs.
Reply #27 Tuesday, July 22, 2008 7:12 AM

so who is worse, Bill Gates or Steven Jobs.








Next question? ....

Reply #28 Tuesday, July 22, 2008 8:10 AM
Heck, Stardock's 1996 dock looked better than the Apple one anyway! Now if I had that Dell dock on my PC, my desktop icons would be gone! Again, hint, hint....
Reply #29 Tuesday, July 22, 2008 8:42 AM
so who is worse, Bill Gates or Steven Jobs.

Jobs... unlike Mr Smug, Bill's not so far up himself that he's not pink on the outside.
Reply #30 Tuesday, July 22, 2008 9:44 AM
so who is worse, Bill Gates or Steven Jobs.

Jobs. I hate that turtleneck.

Macs just kinda drop dead when I'm in the same room.
Reply #31 Tuesday, July 22, 2008 1:23 PM
i dont feel like reading, but if you only look at os 7.5 then most of what was in the article is accurate. but 5 or 6 years prior to os 7.5 was Version 6. v6 had many applications that were solely designed to provide desktop level information similar to the widgets and toolbar. stardock, i love sins, but i will need to see something better than 1996 material when it was being done in the mac enviroment in the late 80's if not sooner. plus with os 7.1 you had another app called launcher that was designed for the less technical user to easily add apps and docs to a friendly tabbed navigation.
Reply #32 Tuesday, July 22, 2008 1:56 PM
i dont feel like reading

Then you can't speak intelligently about the post, can you? I mean, if you're not going to bother to actually read it, why would you bother to respond in ignorance?
Reply #33 Tuesday, July 22, 2008 5:25 PM

Leaki, acorn was first but it's irrelevant anyway. The argument, like mentioned in the article, isn't who first used a square window with icons that launch programs on it first but whether the argument of whether the dock is a "rip off" of the Mac which is patently false.

Dell Dock:


IBM OS/2 LaunchPad:


Now is anyone going to seriously argue that the Dell dock is more similar to say the Next dock than it is to say the IBM LaunchPad?

The reality is, Stardock's been making these "docks" continuously for over a decade, long before Apple had for sure. It certainly wasn't inspired or taken from the Mac obviously and saying the the Next dock is even remotely similar is even more of a stretch than arguing that desktop accessories were the inspiration for widgets.

There are people outside of Apple Computer who have ideas on how the desktop should work and sometimes their ideas are similar to what Apple has done and sometimes Apples ideas are similar to what others have done. It doesn't mean everyone is ripping each other off.


Reply #34 Tuesday, July 22, 2008 8:14 PM
I'm surprised that no one mentioned the Taskbar...

Poor Microsoft, always getting left out. That's been a standard for Windows since 1995 after all.
Reply #35 Wednesday, July 23, 2008 7:30 AM

Now is anyone going to seriously argue that the Dell dock is more similar to say the Next dock than it is to say the IBM LaunchPad?

I only know the Next dock from WindowMaker (a NEXT-like GUI for UNIX), but I would say that both are pretty similar to the Next dock.

OTOH I don't consider the "invention" of the dock a great feat anyway. It seems pretty obvious to me.
Reply #36 Wednesday, July 23, 2008 8:24 AM
Wait..if Jobs is worse than Gates, why are so many people still in love with Apple and thinks that Gates is the Darth Vader in the computing world. Sooo...should not Jobs be qualified as Darth Maul. Or Gates can be Emperor Palpatine and Jobs can be Darth Vader.
Dr Guy
Reply #37 Wednesday, July 23, 2008 8:40 AM
You totally copied their idea. And to make it really confusing, you did it before they did!

Yea, those antecedent copiers!
Reply #38 Wednesday, July 23, 2008 8:54 AM
Wait..if Jobs is worse than Gates, why are so many people still in love with Apple and thinks that Gates is the Darth Vader in the computing world. Sooo...should not Jobs be qualified as Darth Maul. Or Gates can be Emperor Palpatine and Jobs can be Darth Vader.

Microsoft is an easier target than Apple

I like to think of both of them as ewoks, however.
Reply #39 Wednesday, July 23, 2008 10:55 AM
Apple can be credited for one thing, tho... helping to create the egomaniac that Jobs has become.
Reply #40 Wednesday, July 23, 2008 11:20 AM

As one of the few Mac users that works at Stardock (oh no! those exist! no waiz!), I feel like I should do my shpeel...

Steve Jobs = tool. Bill Gates = tool. However, computers = friends. I use my MacBook with both Mac OS X Tiger and Windows XP and my world hasn't exploded (...yet) . Who cares who's came first? As long as they work then I don't think it matters.

As for Jobs saying that Mac created the Dock or whatnot, I have one thing to say to him... Mr. Jobs, sir. I created the iPhone. Give me your moneyz now or I shall sue. I have old pictures of an iPhone-esque device. My computer dates them as last modified in 1980, 8 years before I was born. Therefor, I deserve royalties and whatnot.

Yea... take that Mr. Jobs...

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