Of Mice and men…how Douglas Engelbart changed computing

Douglas Engelbart is a name that most people do not know and, yet, he has had a direct impact on most people.  Mr. Engelbart is one of the people responsible for how we use computers today.  Specifically, he and his lab developed the mouse 40 years ago as part of the oNLine System.  NLS was a revolutionary system and encompassed many of the basic items that make up things like the Web, Lotus Notes and other things like hypertext and natural language databases.  The mouse was part of the NLS and was used for more precise on-screen movement.

During a 1968 demonstration of NLS, Engelbart would show how hypertext could be used to query data, how the mouse could be used to move information around the screen, how live video could be mixed-on screen-with data and other seemingly science fiction like devices.  This page Wooden mouse contains video from that demonstration.  It is a remarkable demonstration.  One must keep in mind that many of the concepts he demonstrated were already old hat to him.  He just pulled it all together for that demo.  One must also keep in mind that, in 1968, Arpanet was just starting, communication speeds were slower than dial up was in 1992 and graphical computing was still a decade away.  Yet, with the primitive technology he had, he was able to things that are now considered mundane and boring. But, in 1968, it was extraordinary. 

The few paragraphs that I write here do not do this man and his group justice.  Go here for more on the Augmentation project (and, no, I am not talking about Dr. Soong…)


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