In an interesting post on Inverse, [Sarah Wells] does a deep dive into something you probably don’t think about very often: the blinking cursor. You’d assume there wasn’t much to the story. Maybe a terminal manufacturer put a toggle flip flop on the cursor output and it caught on. But the true story is much deeper than that.
We were surprised that the father of the blinking cursor was one guy, [Charles Kiesling]. In a 1967 patent, he described the blinking cursor. An ex-Navy man, [Kiesling’s] patent names his employer at the time, Sperry Rand, where he’d worked since 1955.
According to the post, little is known of [Kiesling], one of the many unsung engineers who create everyday life. The article purports that the Apple II was the first place the general public would encounter the invention. We guess it depends on how you define the general public. The VT50 had a blinking cursor, we seem to remember, and we didn’t think it was the first, anyway. The VT05 in the video below seems to have a blinking cursor, too. And we think we remember blinking cursors on other terminals from that era for Lear-Siegler, Hazletine, and Televideo.
Regardless, the invention has stood the test of time. Humans are adept at noticing change and a blinking cursor draws your eye immediately. It works. Of course, once you have a cursor, you want to type something so you are going to need a keyboard. Or, voice command.