(Photo : Facebook)
Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart died on Tuesday at the age of 88. He was one of the inventors of the computer mouse, now a ubiquitous gadget that comes with every desktop computer. Watch his first ever demonstration of the mouse in 1968.
Engelbart and a group of a dozen and a half researchers presented a 90-minute demonstration of the new computer interaction tool on December 9, at the 1968 Fall Joint Computer Conference, which was held at the Convention Center in San Francisco. He and his research team at the Augmentation Research Center at the Stanford Research Institute had been working on the system since 1962.
The original invite to the event described the session as "entirely devoted to a presentation by Dr. Engelbart on a computer-based, interactive, multiconsole display system which is being developed at Stanford Research Institute... The system is being used as an experimental laboratory for investigating principles by which interactive computer aids can augment intellectual capability."
The first mouse was developed as a wooden shell covering two metal wheels, which gave the computer X-axis and Y-axis coordinates to mirror in the virtual desktop. This wasn't the only idea for a mouse though. According to BBC News, Engelbart considered other designs for controlling a pointer, including a device installed underneath the computer table and operated with a user's knee.
Here's Engelbart at his 1968 demonstration, appropriately called the "Mother of All Demos," showing off, not only the mouse, but copy/paste abilities, a filing system with labeling information, and collapsible text - all while Lyndon B. Johnson was still in office. Steve Jobs, eat your heart out.
Here's Engelbart demonstrating what are essentially the progenitor of hyperlinks.
At the end of this clip, Engelbart matter-of-factly throws the demonstration to a colleague operating at a remote location over a closed circuit, sharing the same screen and talking over an audio/video interface (1968's Face Time or Skype).
And finally, here's the coup de gras: An excerpt of Engelbart describing how the first mouse worked, as his remote colleague demonstrates the device, flipping the mouse and showing the two rolling wheels.
Even though Engelbart patented the mouse in 1970, it really wasn't popularized until Xerox began experimenting with the input device, and then Apple started shipping it as part of the Lisa computer in 1983, according to ABC News.
In the 80s into the 90s, Apple's popular mouse design used the same two wheels as Engelbart's 1960s mouse, but placed them inside the casing. Instead of directly touching the surface (which involves one of the wheels always sliding or scraping instead of rolling, depending on the direction one moves the mouse), both wheels tracked on a rubber ball, which gave the mouse a more fluid feel. Later, laser-based mouses, trackballs, and eventually touchpads and touchscreens became more popular.
Though the mouse now has a lot of modern user interface competitors, Engelbart's influence on the industry was felt on Tuesday when he died. Apple's co-founder Steve Wozniak told ABC, "I have admired him so much. Evertyhing we have in computers can be traced to his thinking," he said. "To me, he is a god. He gets recognized for the mouse, but he really did an awful lot of incredible stuff for computer interfaces and networking."
To see all of Douglas Engelbart's 1968 presentation, an hour and a half where he demonstrates so many precursors to the modern technological world, check out the full video below.