A Graphic User Interface, also called a GUI (pronounced like “Gooey”) is any computing environment where the users interact with images rather than use text-based commands. The most well-known GUIs are Windows and Apple desktop computers. Smartphones, iPods, ATMs, and game consoles also have GUIs.

The opposite of a graphical user interface is a text-based interface. With a text based interface, you would have to type on commands, and the computer would give you back text. Even after GUIs caught on for personal computers, text-based games remained popular for some time.

The first GUI systems were put together for the sake of research itself. In the period of 1965 to 1968, Doug Englebart and his colleagues at the Stanford Research Institute developed a program called the “oNLine system” which had windows for different applications. The oNLine system also had a curious device with three buttons on one side, and the cord coming out the other, which made the users think it looked like a mouse.

The GUI available to the public came in the very early 80s. The Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, part of the same company that made popular photocopiers, created two computer models, the Alto and the Star, and released the Star to the public in 1981. The computer was expensive, but still underpowered for the OS, and computers were not widespread at the time; only about 25,000 Stars were sold.

Around the same time, Apple, then known as Apple Computer, was developing the LISA. Lisa stands for Local Integrated Software Architecture, but it’s probably not a coincident that Lisa is also the name of Steve Jobs’s daughter. The Lisa was developed between 1978 and 1983, and the machine was sold to consumers the price of $10,000. In 1984, Apple released the more successful Macintosh.

By 1990, Microsoft’s Windows 3 was the first widely popular GUI on a PC, and Windows 95 cemented Microsoft as the leader in GUI, breaking all previous sales records. Today, nearly every electronic device you can think of has a GUI, including fast-food cash registers, supermarket check-out machines, and DVD rental kiosks.

Many of today’s VoIP phones have a graphical user interface, as do softphones and cell phones, to say nothing of smartphones and tablets. Some IP phones are using Android, the open-source platform developed by Google, while others have proprietary operating systems. Similarly, IP PBX and VoIP phones use a Graphical User Interface on their administrative portals. Having a GUI makes it easy for the user to understand and activate features.  The GUI makes it easy to check to see if how many voice mails you have, add names to your contact list, and call SIP addresses, among other features.

Additional Reading
- What is a Communication API?
- VoIP vs. Landline