The Alto was novel in that each machine had a bit-mapped display, allowing the creation of a graphical user interface, and was also attached to a high-speed network, the Ethernet, also invented at PARC. In addition to the keyboard, users could use a mouse to interact with applications.
The CPU was microcoded, built out of TTL, and could emulate several different CPUs - the basic ROM more or less emulated a Data General Nova. The CPU did not support DMA; rather, it had provision for up to 16 micro-tasks, which did all bulk input/output.
Xerox attempted to commercialize the lessons of the Alto, in the Xerox Star, but it was not a commercial success. Other companies, including IBM (hardware), Microsoft (software) and Apple (both) did manage to produce succesful products along the lines pioneered by the Alto.