[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.
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
"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.
More information about the Artinfo