Clarence Ellis: Groupware

Once working at a computer was a lonely endeavour: one person, one computer, doing one job.

Clarence Ellis pioneered ways for people to use computers in ways that meant they could work together more effectively rather than less so. In particular, he developed crucial ideas behind how people could edit the same text document at the same time without the document becoming hopelessly muddled. This was one of the earliest forms of what is called computer supported cooperative working. Now with, for example, Google Docs, this is common.

Before that, he was also part of the team that invented graphical user interfaces (GUIs) when working at Xerox Parc, and is credited with inventing the idea of clicking on an icon to run a program.

Read more about Clarences’s work on the  cs4fn website.


Art & Design. Investigate icons. Are the same icons used across all software. Compare icons used and adapt and change to develop a new set of new icons for working with documents, particularly ones that are being shared.


This work was supported by the Institute of Coding, which is supported by the Office for Students (OfS).