Computer Science Illuminated, Third Edition


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Chapter 15: Networks

Doug Engelbart

"Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door. Invent the computer mouse, and the world will all but forget your name." This was the lead paragraph in an article celebrating the 20th birthday of the computer mouse.1

Designed by Doug Engelbart--the name that was forgotten--and a group of young scientists and engineers at Stanford Research Institute, the computer mouse debuted in 1968 at the Fall Joint Computer conference as part of a demonstration later called "The Mother of All Demos" by Andy van Dam. The historic demonstration foreshadowed human-computer interaction and networking. It wasn't until 1981 that the first commercial computer with a mouse was introduced, however. In 1984 the Apple Macintosh brought the mouse into the mainstream. To this day no one seems to know where the term "mouse" came from.

Engelbart grew up on a farm near Portland, Oregon, during the Depression. He served in the Navy in the Philippines during World War II as an electronics technician. Engelbart completed his electrical engineering degree in 1948 from Oregon State University and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1955 he received a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and joined the Stanford Research Institute.

Engelbart's vision of the computer as an extension of human communication capabilities and a resource for the augmentation of human intellect was outlined in the seminal paper "Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework," published in 1962. He has never lost this vision. Ever since, he has been developing models to improve the coevolution of computers with human organizations to boost collaboration, and to create what he calls "high performance organizations." 2

During the 1970s and 1980s, Engelbart was Senior Scientist at Tymshare, which was bought by McDonnell-Douglas. When the program was shut down in 1989, Engelbart founded the Bootstrap Institute, aimed at helping companies and organizations utilize his techniques. He feels encouraged by the opensource movement, in which programmers collaborate to create advanced and complicated software. He is currently planning a system of open software that can be distributed free over the Internet.

Recognition may have been long in coming, but Englebart received 32 awards between 1987 and 2001, including the Turing Award in 1997 and the National Medal of Technology in 2000. The citations for these two prestigious awards read as follows:
   (Turing Award) For an inspiring vision of the future
   of interactive computing and the invention of key
   technologies to help realize this vision.
   (National Medal of Technology) For creating the
   foundations of personal computing including
   continuous real-time interaction based on cathoderay
   tube displays and the mouse, hypertext linking,
   text editing, online journals, shared-screen teleconferencing,
   and remote collaborative work.

Additional Links

Walk through these photos of mouse history, and come to appreciate the visionary ideas of Doug Engelbart.

Visit the Mouse Nostalgia web site
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