From Mac Guides
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Dashboard is an extension of the Finder in OS X Tiger, which acts as a customizable desktop where small applications called Widgets are kept for small tasks.
At the World Wide Developers Conference in 2004, Apple Computers CEO, Steve Jobs introduced Dashboard to developers. One developer claimed that it was stolen from his idea Konfabulator, an application which ran mini-applications called widgets.
The claim sparked two sides of a debate; One that claimed Dashboard was copied from Konfabulator, the other that Konfabulator idea itself was taken from Desk Accessories, such as a clock, calculator, and on-screen keyboard, from an early version of the Mac OS.
Refresh the status of a widget by typing command-R.