[artinfo] RIP: Douglas Engelbart

nettime's historical fader nettime at kein.org
Thu Jul 4 09:53:31 CEST 2013

Douglas Engelbart, inventor of computer mouse and so much more, dies at 88

In December 1968, his "Mother of all Demos" changed computing forever.
-> https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=yJDv-zdhzMY

by Cyrus Farivar - July 4 2013, 12:09am CEST


If you've used a mouse to click this article, you can thank Douglas 
Engelbart. The longtime inventor passed away in the late hours of 
July 2 at his home in Atherton, California. He was 88 years old.

In addition to inventing the computer mouse, Engelbart helped develop 
other technologies that have become commonplace in the computing 
world, including pioneering hypertext, networking, and the early 
stages of graphical user interfaces. He will always be one of the 
giants of Silicon Valley.

Most famously, Engelbart gave a now-legendary presentation on 
December 8, 1968 in San Francisco later known as "The Mother of all 
Demos." In it, he gave the world's first demonstration of the 
computer mouse, video conferencing, teleconferencing, hypertext, word 
processing, hypermedia, object addressing and dynamic file linking, 
and a collaborative real-time editor.

Today, many across the tech world lamented the loss of Engelbart. 
Howard Rheingold, a noted tech writer, tweeted: "I'd say that most of 
what I've written was inspired by the day I met Doug Engelbart in 

Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation added: "We gave him our 
Pioneer Award in 1992, but it's impossible to express his impact as a 
computing pioneer."

"Augmenting Human Intellect"

Even before his famous demonstration, Engelbart outlined his vision 
of the future more than a half-century ago in his historic 1962 
paper, "Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework."

In the paper, he described a "writing machine" that is certainly 
recognizable to all Ars staff today:

     This writing machine would permit you to use a new process of 
composing text. For instance, trial drafts could rapidly be composed 
from re-arranged excerpts of old drafts, together with new words or 
passages which you stop to type in. Your first draft could represent 
a free outpouring of thoughts in any order, with the inspection of 
foregoing thoughts continuously stimulating new considerations and 
ideas to be entered. If the tangle of thoughts represented by the 
draft became too complex, you would compile a reordered draft 
quickly. It would be practical for you to accommodate more complexity 
in the trails of thought you might build in search of the path that 
suits your needs.

     You can integrate your new ideas more easily, and thus harness 
your creativity more continuously, if you can quickly and flexibly 
change your working record. If it is easier to update any part of 
your working record to accommodate new developments in thought or 
circumstance, you will find it easier to incorporate more complex 
procedures in your way of doing things. This will probably allow you 
to accommodate the extra burden associated with, for instance, 
keeping and using special files whose contents are both contributed 
to and utilized by any current work in a flexible manner-which in 
turn enables you to devise and use even-more complex procedures to 
better harness your talents in your particular working situation.

UPDATE, Thursday, July 4 12:55am CT: In an e-mail sent to Ars, Vint 
Cerf, the co-inventor of the TCP/IP protocol, had this to say about 

     Doug and [J.C.R. Licklider] were going two of our farthest seeing 
visionaries. Doug's [oN-Line System] was as close to Vannever Bush's 
vision of Memex as you could get in the 1960s. He had a keen sense of 
the way in which computers could augment human capacity to think. 
Much of what transpired at Xerox PARC owes its origins to Doug and 
the people who created NLS with him. The [Web] is a manifestation of 
some of what he imagined or hoped although his aspirations exceeded 
even that in terms of human and computer partnerships.

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