One of modern computing's visionary pioneers, Douglas C. Engelbart, has died. His inventions helped create today's personal computers, including the computer mouse and the graphical user interface.
Engelbart was 88, and his wife said he died at his home in Atherton, Calif., as a result of kidney failure.
One of his first innovations was the development of shared computing power in the 1950s, a time when the room-sized electronic calculators then known as computers were used by only one person at a time. He called this method "bootstrapping."
'Mother of All Demos'
During the 1960s, he led the Augmentation Research Center at Research International (SRI), funded by the Defense Department and NASA. Engelbart's team developed and then demonstrated a mouse and keyboard that allowed a user to interactively use a computer with results displayed on a screen, and the demonstration included text editing, hyperlinks, windows for navigation and video conferencing. This was a time when the world's computer scientists who worked with computers had to submit a stack of punch cards, followed by the results hours later.
The major demonstration of that technology, before a thousand computer scientists at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco on Dec. 9, 1968, was so pivotal to the development of modern computing that it has been called "the mother of all demos." The technology and approaches to computing were further developed at Xerox's famed Palo Alto Research Center, Apple Computer, Microsoft and elsewhere.
In 1963, Engelbart had invented the mouse, which initially had three buttons and, Engelbart thought, could eventually have as many as ten. Originally, it was a small wooden box with two metal wheels inside that determined the X-Y position of the on-screen cursor.
A file system for the online retrieval of documents that he developed, called the oNLine System or NLS, was not only a precursor of later online applications, but later became the application for which ARPAnet was built to implement. ARPAnet later evolved into the Internet, and one of the two initial nodes of the ARPAnet was at SRI.
Engelbart had served in the U.S. Army during the second World War as a radar technician in the Philippines, and during that time he came across a later-to-be-famous article by physicist Vannevar Bush, "As We May Think," which presented the concept of a universal information system that Bush called Memex.
The idea became a goal in Engelbart's life, as he went to Oregon State and then University of California at Berkeley after the war. He worked for a government aerospace lab, the Ames Research Center in California, and later moved to SRI. His honors included the National Medal of Technology, the Lemelson-MIT Prize and the Turing Award.
He also received 21 patents, the last one of which -- received in 1970 -- was for the computer mouse. But the 17-year lifespan of the mouse patent barely went past 1984, when Apple's Macintosh first popularized the mouse. Since that time, about a billion computer mice have been sold.
Kevin a Kiwi from down u:
Posted: 2013-07-03 @ 3:41pm PT
A genius, a man before his time. What a contrast his attitude portrayed, when compared to the money hungry entrepreneurs who followed. He paid high tribute to those colleagues whose ideas and collaborate efforts led to many discoveries. Such humility is seldom seen today. We could do no worse than follow such an example.