RIP Douglas Engelbart.

Douglas Engelbart – perhaps the last of the great American inventors – is dead. The newspapers are keen to remind everyone that Engelbart invented the computer mouse, but they are largely silent on the matter of his having personally created almost every one of the concepts we think of as part of the standard human-computer interface, including the very idea of an interactive graphical workstation. This is because a silent army of dutiful piss-ants is, by unspoken agreement, always given credit for the bulk of their betters’ accomplishments.

The video clip below is the opening segment of what has long been known as “The Mother of All Demos.” If you have not seen “The Mother of All Demos,” your education in the history of computing is woefully incomplete:

Who among those living today could hope to produce something equaling the pure novelty – the sheer intellectual audacity – of just a single one of the things which appear in “The Mother of All Demos” ?

This entry was written by Stanislav , posted on Thursday July 04 2013 , filed under Computation, NonLoper, ShouldersGiants, SoftwareArchaeology . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

8 Responses to “RIP Douglas Engelbart.”

  • Anonymous says:

    Once I learned of Engelbart’s death I knew you would have made a post about him. We have lost a great man.

  • Simon says:

    Dammit, that’s sad. Still, 88 isn’t a bad innings in years, and in terms of inventions he’d lived several “normal” lifetimes.

    BTW, there’s a better quality copy of the mother of all demos here : http://youtu.be/yJDv-zdhzMY (360p, and the whole thing in one go)

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  • Richard Ellicott says:

    you do realise that the “very idea” of a graphical workstation is sort of obvious, and sort of also would have been obvious to you then.

    that he is credited with the mouse is actually pretty neat, he certainly didn’t invent the wheel or the button,

    The mouse, it is two whees and a button.

    “who” invented what thing is lost a lot of the time because basically everyone is working towards the same idea of electro-mechanical interaction or visual interaction.

    for people to say you actually invented something it seems really lucky to me

  • richard k says:

    a silent army of dutiful piss-ants is, by unspoken agreement, always given credit for the bulk of their betters’ accomplishments.

    You’re giving them too much credit by implying either the pissants or the journalists who write about the pissants are responsible for this state of affairs. The truth is far more demeaning. The truth is that none of those people are capable of genuine cognition and none of them have any pre-existing mental box in which they can fit in Douglas Engelbart.

    Engelbart was not a weak Gutless coward like Einstein who could be dismissed as essentially harmless. Engelbart wasn’t as … theatrical as Nikola Tesla (who was far more productive) so couldn’t be dismissed as an insane madman. And obviously he was far more productive and ambitious than a mere inventor. In fact, to call him an inventor as you do is to damn him with faint praise.

    As proof I advance the fact there isn’t even a word for what Engelbart is. Yes, he was the Father Of The Personal Computer. But that reuses the same words as Father Of Venezuela / Father Of All Turks, and Father Of The American Revolution. All three categories of people are related and yet totally different.

    Face it, Father Of is the last title that doesn’t come straight out of fiction. In other words, it is the most august and most alien title most people are capable of conceiving bestowing on any single human being. (shrug) Normal people just aren’t capable of thinking that far.

    • Stanislav says:

      Dear RK,

      The debasement of language is a genuine problem. If you’d like to suggest a more appropriate term than “inventor,” I’m all ears.

      Most people still appear to have a faintly-correct notion of what an “inventor” does. Hence the choice of word.

      Yours,
      -Stanislav

  • richard k says:

    # Who among those living today could hope to produce something equaling the pure novelty – the sheer intellectual audacity – of just a single one of the things which appear in “The Mother of All Demos” ?

    O ye of little faith. You do me a grave disservice by comparing my works to the comparatively small-time small-minded FAILURE that is Engelbart’s. But then, I don’t think you appreciate what old Doug was trying to do that he failed at. Or that there’s two whole levels above him. :| Just as, amusingly, there are two whole levels between what Doug was and a mere inventor. :)

    • Stanislav says:

      Dear RK,

      You might get a little more interesting feedback re: your work if you were willing to occasionally discuss it in public.

      In case you don’t know this, my crap is mostly here for possible archaeologists. If I were convinced that I’ll live to see my ideas through into a working physical system, I probably wouldn’t bother with writing.

      Yours,
      -Stanislav

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