Was I the First Programmer to Use A Hierarchical Menu in A Commercial App?

March 28, 2012

Back in January, 1987 my little company Data Tailor released Trapeze spreadsheet for the Mac. Besides many original and unusual features (such as free form blocks instead of the usual columns and rows) the interface centrally featured a popup (drop down in Windows parlance) menu with multiple levels for picking functions. I had seen one in 1986 at a conference in an academic application running on Unix but I had never seen one anywhere else.

It made sense to me since users could pick functions easily with the classifications in the main popup menu and the functions or sub functions on the secondary menus. The current MacOS at the time did not support either popup menus or secondary menus. A few months into 1987 Apple did ship an OS (4 something) that included both of these features; however their implementation was slightly different than mine in how the secondary menu was activated.

I wonder if anyone out there has any idea if there were implementations in commercial applications before January, 1987? So far I haven't been able to do the right google search to discover such a historical item.

It's not a big deal but I lately I wondered if I was first or just didn't know other uses. Of course in those days there was no Google so other than magazines and journals or in person you didn't always know everything like today.

In this day of specialized roles people never think that a programmer can also design UI or build UX models but I did a lot of that in the early days.

Trapeze also had the distinction of being the first commercial Mac application to appear in color in public. I demoed it on the Computer Chronicles TV program on a preproduction Apple Color Monitor. I had blindly implemented the existing Quickdraw "6 color" model without being able to test it until right before the show when I picked up the display. It did make Me and Trapeze look cool compared to Mike Stone who was demoing Microsoft Excel that was still strictly black and white. For a short moment we shone brighter than Microsoft before being swiftly crushed! Fun stuff.