Douglass Engelbart - father of the mouse


June 4, 2004

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At a Computer Conference in 1968, Engelbart demonstrated a personal computer with a one-handed keyboard, word processing, split windows, shared documents, e-mail filtering, desktop conferencing and a mouse.

In the immediate post-WW2 period, Douglas Englebart was stationed in the Phillipines when he borrowed a book from the Red Cross library which changed his life. The book was Vannevar Bush's "As We May Think" and it profoundly influenced not just the remainder of Englebart's life, but arguably the hundreds of millions of people in the world who have or will ever use a computer.

Not only did Englebart embrace Bush's concept of a machine which would assist human cognition and endeavour, but he actively involved himself in the field of computer-human interface and augmentation. Two decades later, he developed the idea that would form the basis of today's computer interfaces - the mouse.Engelbart founded the Augmentation Research Centre (ARC) at Stanford with the catch-cry, "Augmentation not automation".

His vision was important, because many people saw the computer as being a machine which would replace the human rather than greatly improve their capabilities.Though Engelbart may be best remembered for his invention of the mouse, which was subsequently licensed to the famous Palo Alto Research Centre and then to Apple computers, much of his work is characterised by its relevance to the computer and the greater good.

He was instrumental in developing the graphical user interface for the computer, and of championing "groupware" for collaborative environments. See the original presentation

On December 9, 1968, Douglas C. Engelbart and the group of 17 researchers working with him in the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California, presented a 90-minute live public demonstration of the online system, NLS, which they had been working on since 1962.

The original 90-minute video of this event is part of the Engelbart Collection in Special Collections of Stanford University. This original video has been edited into 35 segments and reformatted as RealVideo streaming video clips which can be seen here .

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, (Australia's largest Telco), (Australia's largest employment site),,, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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