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 Fascinating facts about Douglas Engelbart
inventor of the computer mouse in 1968.
Douglas Engelbart
Inventor: Douglas Carl Engelbart
Criteria: First to invent. First to patent. First practical.
Birth: January 30, 1925 in Portland, Oregon
   
Nationality: American

Years before personal computers and desktop information processing became commonplace or even practicable, Douglas Engelbart had invented a number of interactive, user-friendly information access systems that we take for granted today: the computer mouse, windows, shared-screen teleconferencing, hypermedia, GroupWare, and more. At the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco in 1968, Engelbart astonished his colleagues by demonstrating the aforementioned systems---using an utterly primitive 192 kilobyte mainframe computer located 25 miles away! Engelbart has earned nearly two dozen patents, the most memorable being perhaps for his "X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System": the prototype of the computer "mouse" whose convenience has revolutionized personal computing.

Mouse (computer), a common pointing device, popularized by its inclusion as standard equipment with the Apple Macintosh. With the rise in popularity of graphical user interfaces (Graphical User Interface) in MS-DOS; UNIX, and OS/2, use of mice is growing throughout the personal computer and workstation worlds. The basic features of a mouse are a casing with a flat bottom, designed to be gripped by one hand; one or more buttons on the top; a multidirectional detection device (usually a ball) on the bottom; and a cable connecting the mouse to the computer. By moving the mouse on a surface (such as a desk), the user typically controls an on-screen cursor. A mouse is a relative pointing device because there are no defined limits to the mouse's movement and because its placement on a surface does not map directly to a specific screen location. To select items or choose commands on the screen, the user presses one of the mouse's buttons, producing a "mouse click."

Engelbart's inventions were ahead of their time, but have been integrated into mainstream computing as industry capabilities have increased. It was not until 1984 that the Apple Macintosh popularized the mouse; but today it is difficult to imagine a personal computer without one. And the huge success of Microsoft's Windows95 proves that Engelbart's original windows concept has also become a virtual necessity. In a talk delivered at MIT (June 1996), Bill Gates himself praised Engelbart for his pioneering work. Byte magazine, in an article honoring the 20 persons who have had the greatest impact on personal computing (September 1995), went so far as to say of Engelbart: "Comparisons with Thomas Edison do not seem farfetched.

Engelbart now works out of the Bootstrap Institute, which he founded, where he is an inventor and a consultant in multiple-user business computing. His current focus is on a type of GroupWare called a "open hyperdocument system," which may one day replace paper recordkeeping entirely.

TO   LEARN  MORE

INVENTION FACTS:
Invention of the Computer Mouse
  from The Great Idea Finder
History of Computing    from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Bootstrapping: Douglas Engelbart, Coevolution, and the Origins of Personal Computing
by Thierry Bardini / Paperback: 284 pages / Stanford Univ Press (December 2000)
When Douglas Engelbart first demonstrated windows and a funny wooden device called a mouse back in 1968, interest jumped quickly and he became the progenitor of the PC.

From Memex to Hypertext : Vannevar Bush and the Mind's Machine
by James M. Nyce (Editor), Paul Kahn, Vannevar Bush / Hardcover - 367 pages / Academic Pr -1992
Memex, a computer that was never built, was described in 1945 by pioneer computer engineer Bush, and foreshadowed the principles and operations of today's personal computers. Vannevar Bush's article "As We May Think" inspired the thinking of Mr. Engelbart and many others.
Endless Frontier : Vannevar Bush, Engineer of the American Century
by G. Pascal Zachary / Paperback - 518 pages / MIT Press - 1999
Profiling Vannevar Bush, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineer who, as head of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), oversaw all wartime military research. He mobilized the nation's scientific and technological talent by funding private research with public.

ON THE WEB:
Bootstrap Institute
Find out what Mr. Engelbart is inventing today at the institute he founded.
(URL: www2.bootstrap.org)
National Inventors Hall of Fame
Douglas Engelbart Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1998.
(URL: www.invent.org/hall_of_fame/53.html)
Invention Dimension - Inventor of the Week
Douglas Engelbart featured January, 1997 for his invention of the computer mouse.
(URL: web.mit.edu/invent/iow/engelbart.html)
Internet Pioneers
Douglas Englebart has always been ahead of his time, having ideas that seemed far-fetched at the time but later were taken for granted.
(URL: www.ibiblio.org/pioneers/englebart.html)
Douglas Engelbart and 'The Mother of All Demos'
Show and tell by the expert in his field.
(URL: www.cs.brown.edu/stc/resea/telecollaboration/engelbart.html)
The Electronic Labyrinth
The Electronic Labyrinth is a study of hypertext technology, providing a guide to this rapidly growing field. Highlights the contribution of Mr. Engelbart in the creation of hypertext.

(URL: jefferson.village.virginia.edu/elab/hfl0035.html)
Interview with Douglas Engelbart
Transcript of a video history interview with Mr. Doug Engelbart, winner of the Computerworld Smithsonian Award in 1994. From the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
(URL: americanhistory.si.edu/collections/comphist/englebar.htm)
MouseSite
A resource for exploring the history of human computer interaction beginning with the pioneering work of Douglas Engelbart and his colleagues at Stanford Research Institute in the 1960s.
(URL: sloan.stanford.edu/MouseSite)
 

Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised October 9, 2006.
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