Douglas Englebart, inventor of the mouse, dies aged 88

Written by Edward Chester

July 3, 2013 | 20:10

Tags: #mouse

Companies: #bit-tech

Douglas Englebart, the pioneering computer engineer best known for inventing the mouse, has died at age 88.

As well as inventing the mouse Englebart also paved the way for video conferencing, hyperlinks, text editing and more.

Many of these technologies were wrapped up in a system called NLS that he and his colleagues at the Stanford Augmentation Research Center created during the sixties, and which was famously demonstrated on 19th December 1968.

This presentation, which came to be known colloquially as 'the mother of all demos', showcased a revolutionary computer system that for the first time used a mouse and keyboard to control a WYSIWYG editor that included hyperlinks and combined both text and graphics. And to top it all off the presentation itself was achieved via some of the earliest examples of video conferencing.

"We weren’t interested in ‘automation’ but in ‘augmentation,’" Engelbart would say later. "We were not just building a tool, we were designing an entire system for working with knowledge."

Englebart never received any money for inventing the mouse, with the Stanford Research Institute patenting the invention. According to Englebart "they really had no idea of its value. Some years later it was learned that they had licensed it to Apple Computer for something like $40,000"

Not long after this famous presentation he found himself a victim of government cuts as the military funding that had allowed for his research dried up. While many colleagues left to join the likes of Xerox PARC, Englebart stuck with NLS, which was sold to a company called Tymshare (later bought by McDonnell Douglas), but was never able to secure sufficient backing to take it to the next level. Englebart eventually retired in 1986.

Engelbart leaves behind his second wife, Karen O'Leary Engelbart (his first wife, Ballard, died in 1997), four children and nine grandchildren.
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