How did people here learn GUIs

Janina Sajka janina at
Tue Jul 19 18:08:24 UTC 2016

John, you're correct about most people, but not about most computer
professionals, especially not about computer programmers.

My evidence is how Microsoft is now adding bash from Ubuntu to Windows
All the programmers I know who use Windows are seriously jazzed about
this new upgrade to Windows. Just imagine using apt-get to add some
package ton the Windows command line environment.

This has been an interesting thread. I'm looking forward to reading

My own personal experience predates accessible Unix shell access. I say
Unix, because Linux had not yet been invented. The only way to access a
Unix shell in the 1980's was to have an account at some company or
university, or to buy monthly access at some service like The Well, or
eventually at netcom. Where I lived, that also meant paying for the
modem call by the minute, because the calls from San Francisco to the
Well, or to Netcom were intra latta calls, and were charged pretty hefty

But, this background is important, I think, because we didn't exactly
have command line access at services like Compuserve, the Source, or
Delphi Internet services. What we had was a menu of options. Sometimes
the menu would be something you could arrow or tab through, sometimes it
was just printed on screen and you had to type the command you wanted at
the prompt.

How is that like gui desktops? More primitive, yes, but it's object
oriented. You select an object and activate it. Then, you do that again
on the next screen. So, early gui was no problem from the conceptual
point of view, because it was just a menu of options presented in
hieroglyphs rather than words. Of course, those hieroglyphs--we learned
to call them icons--weren't accessible because we didn't have a way to
associate them with words. We had to do some serious advocacy to get the
operating environment retrofitted in a way that would allow words to be
associated with those icons.

In the early days of gui accessibility several books in braille appeared
designed to teach us this graphical environment. I remember a title from
the U.K. called "Windows Explained" that came with wonderful graphic
representations of various screens on Windows computers. If titles like
that aren't available today, somebody should start writing. From the
discussion here it's clear to me that a good, conceptual overview of how
the gui works, along with some good braille graphics, would likely prove
highly valuable. It would be even more valuable if it showed Microsoft,
Apple, Chrome and Linux -- but I'm probably dreaming to ask for that
much! <grin>

PS: I got my first real cli when Netcom created a pop in San Francisco.
The day I hear about that I signed up. I expected to find menus when I
logged in, but no, I just got a shell prompt. I was flummoxed. I called
for tech support, because the docs they sent in the mail were only in
print. The owner of the company was doing his own tech support back
then. When he realizaed I was blind, he showed me how to read usenet
news groups and man pages. He promissed to help me if I got stuck, but
with usenet and man in my skillset, I never had to call him again. This
is a true story, but you were all asking about gui, not cli.


John J. Boyer writes:
> My experience is that most blind people like a GUI with a screen reader 
> better than the command line. Those who have teouble with GUIs, like me, 
> seem to be decidedly in the minority.
> John
> On Mon, Jul 18, 2016 at 12:29:39AM +0200, Anders Holmberg wrote:
> > Hi!
> > Thats intresting.
> > I am the total oposit guy.
> > I had and have no problems learning gui’s but for me the command line is to hard.
> > Although i began with a debian command line system 16 years ago and gave that up for windows a couple of years.
> > Now i am back to vinux and a mac with osx.
> > I whish i was patient enough to learn command line.
> > Maybe i am to dum or maybe i am lazy.
> > /A
> > > On 17 Jul 2016, at 22:57, Sam Hartman <hartmans at> wrote:
> > > 
> > >>>>>> "John" == John J Boyer <john.boyer at> writes:
> > > 
> > >    John> I';ve been trying to get a feel for GUIs for years. Sighted
> > >    John> colleagues are no help. They only tell me how they use the
> > >    John> mouse. They won't use a keyboard shourcut even when it is much
> > >    John> simpler. For example, they will scroll down a long document
> > >    John> instead of using ctrl+f to find something.  i've tried
> > >    John> unsuccessfully tpo find a Jaws trainer. After I reinstalled
> > >    John> Windows 7 recently Jaws wouldn't install. I'm now using NVDA
> > >    John> and I don't think I'll go back to Jaws.
> > > 
> > > This is really interesting, because now I'm realizing that I don't know
> > > how to teach someone GUIs on modern equipment at all.
> > > I don't know  if I can find a solution, but I'll see if I can toss the
> > > question around.
> > > 
> > > I hear your frustration completely about people who know one way of
> > > doing something and who aren't even great at articulating that.
> > > 
> > > I started to say "well, understanding the mouse at least well enough to
> > > get your screen reader to click places and stuff is worth knowing.
> > > That's true of course, although I just realized that most of the screen
> > > readers I use these days actually wouldn't let me click usefully on a
> > > scroll bar if I wanted to.
> > > So, even if you wanted to be incredibly slow, you can't get work done
> > > just understanding the mouse operations.
> > > 
> > > Thanks for helping me understand an interesting challenge; I'll let you
> > > know if I come up with anything that might help at all.
> > > 
> > > --Sam
> > > 
> > > _______________________________________________
> > > Blinux-list mailing list
> > > Blinux-list at
> > >
> > 
> > 
> > _______________________________________________
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> > Blinux-list at
> >
> -- 
> John J. Boyer; President,
> AbilitiesSoft, Inc.
> Email: john.boyer at
> Website:
> Status: 501(C)(3) Nonprofit
> Location: Madison, Wisconsin USA
> Mission: To develop softwares and provide STEM services for people with 
>          disabilities which are available at no cost.
> _______________________________________________
> Blinux-list mailing list
> Blinux-list at


Janina Sajka,	Phone:	+1.443.300.2200
			sip:janina at
		Email:	janina at

Linux Foundation Fellow
Executive Chair, Accessibility Workgroup:

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
Chair, Accessible Platform Architectures

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