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Douglas Englebart, inventor of the mouse, dies aged 88

Douglas Englebart, inventor of the mouse, dies aged 88

Douglas Englebart

Douglas Englebart, the pioneering computer engineer best known for inventing the mouse, has died at age 88.

As well as inventing the mouse Englebart also paved the way for video conferencing, hyperlinks, text editing and more.

Many of these technologies were wrapped up in a system called NLS that he and his colleagues at the Stanford Augmentation Research Center created during the sixties, and which was famously demonstrated on 19th December 1968.

This presentation, which came to be known colloquially as 'the mother of all demos', showcased a revolutionary computer system that for the first time used a mouse and keyboard to control a WYSIWYG editor that included hyperlinks and combined both text and graphics. And to top it all off the presentation itself was achieved via some of the earliest examples of video conferencing.

"We weren’t interested in ‘automation’ but in ‘augmentation,’" Engelbart would say later. "We were not just building a tool, we were designing an entire system for working with knowledge."

Englebart never received any money for inventing the mouse, with the Stanford Research Institute patenting the invention. According to Englebart "they really had no idea of its value. Some years later it was learned that they had licensed it to Apple Computer for something like $40,000"

Not long after this famous presentation he found himself a victim of government cuts as the military funding that had allowed for his research dried up. While many colleagues left to join the likes of Xerox PARC, Englebart stuck with NLS, which was sold to a company called Tymshare (later bought by McDonnell Douglas), but was never able to secure sufficient backing to take it to the next level. Englebart eventually retired in 1986.

Engelbart leaves behind his second wife, Karen O'Leary Engelbart (his first wife, Ballard, died in 1997), four children and nine grandchildren.

6 Comments

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David164v8 3rd July 2013, 22:47 Quote
*Passes

Sorry ;P
John_T 3rd July 2013, 23:29 Quote
An odd world we live in sometimes: Some people can make the most minor and inconsequential of contributions to the world and get untold riches and rewards for it - whereas other people, like Douglas Engelbart, can affect literally hundreds of millions (probably billions) of people and get, well, not very much at all...
schmidtbag 3rd July 2013, 23:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by John_T
An odd world we live in sometimes: Some people can make the most minor and inconsequential of contributions to the world and get untold riches and rewards for it - whereas other people, like Douglas Engelbart, can affect literally hundreds of millions (probably billions) of people and get, well, not very much at all...

Yes, it's quite disgusting in a way. While he could have taken more legal action than he did, I suppose we should be thankful he didn't or else the mouse might not have ever evolved as much as it has.

But hey, at least he died before seeing his product get phased out. While I think there's another couple decades left until a realistic replacement to the mouse comes along, no inventor wants to know their product became obsolete in their lifetime.
konstantine 4th July 2013, 01:45 Quote
RIP Douglas. You wont be forgotten!
sub routine 4th July 2013, 07:54 Quote
ahhh the appliance of science. RIP.
miller 4th July 2013, 12:28 Quote
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/2d/Firstmouseunderside.jpg

The first computer mouse underside view held by inventor Douglas Engelbart

Stupid idea, It'll never catch on

Another unsung visionary in the history of computing.
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