Douglas C. Engelbart, computer visionary and inventor of the mouse, dies at 88
SRI International reports that Douglas C. Engelbart, Ph.D, the computer science visionary whose many accomplishments include the first prototype and patent of the computer mouse, passed away peacefully on Tuesday at the age of 88.
Not only did Dr. Engelbart demonstrate the first mouse to an audience at the 1968 Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco, he also presented a functional vision of the dynamic, networked computing that Apple and Microsoft would later build on with the personal computers of the '80s. His "oN-Line System" even included implementations of hypertext links and shared-screen collaboration—you can watch what has come to be called the "Mother of All Demos" in full at MouseSite.
As for the mouse, the idea for our favorite input device came to Dr. Engelbart in 1964. He brought a sketch to collaborating computer engineer William English at the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International), who had the prototype below fabricated.
In 1970, Dr. Engelbart received a patent for the mouse, which describes the device as "an X-Y position indicator control for movement by the hand over any surface to move a cursor over the display on a cathode ray tube, the indicator control generating signals indicating its position to cause a cursor to be displayed on the tube at the corresponding position."
For the mouse and his many other contributions, Dr. Engelbart will be remembered as one of computing's greatest innovators, and during his life he received many of his field's most prestigious honors, including the Lemelson–MIT Prize, the US National Medal of Technology, and the ACM A.M. Turing Award.
“Doug was a giant who made the world a much better place and who deeply touched those of us who knew him,” said Curtis R. Carlson, Ph.D., president and CEO of SRI International. “SRI was very privileged and honored to have him as one of our ‘family.’ He brought tremendous value to society. We will miss his genius, warmth and charm. Doug’s legacy is immense—anyone in the world who uses a mouse or enjoys the productive benefits of a personal computer is indebted to him."
We are very much among those indebted to Dr. Engelbart—we salute him for his immeasurable contribution to science and technology, and the tangentially-resulting hobby we enjoy today.
Photos via SRI International.