Screenshot of Windows 7 Desktop. Used with permission from Microsoft.
The GUI, or Graphical User Interface, is the graphical environment presented to the user for working with the computer. The four major players in GUI design for general-purpose computers (laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones) are the Windows desktop interface (though Microsoft is currently transitioning to its new “Metro” interface), Mac OS X, iOS, and Android. These interfaces are all that most people ever encounter in the computer because it requires technical knowledge and skill to break through the interface to access the nuts and bolts of the computer. The creation of the GUI dates back some thirty-odd years, and is largely responsible for the dissemination of the computer to the general public. It has often been hailed as the innovation which wrested control of the computer from the technological elite and placed it in the hands of the non-tech-savvy user — and this is still partially true. Ironically, however, this attempt to make the computer accessible to the general public is socially determinate.