Forty years of the mouse, but collective computing dream unrealized

Posted on December 18, 2008  /  0 Comments

Like no one asks who invented the mobile, few ask who invented the mundane components of the computer that allow us to do what we do routinely. The mouse for one (try using a modern computer without one!). Doug Engelbart, a man I am proud to have been in the same room with, was the inventor of the mouse. Forty years of his vision was celebrated earlier this month at Stanford.

The mouse was merely a byproduct of Engelbart’s larger vision, said his daughter, Christina Engelbart, executive director of the Doug Engelbart Institute. “That was what the public recognizes as a great innovation that’s really had a huge impact on everyone. But truly his greatest innovation of all was the vision and the strategic organizing principles that catapulted the innovation of his lab and that could catapult the work today if it was applied and harnessed in teams and organizations,” she said.

“It’s frustrating in a way,” said Jeff Rulifson, a research director at Sun Microsystems Laboratories and a witness to the original demo. “Doug had these grand ideas. And we’ve realized some of them, in what’s happened with computers. But he also had grand ideas about how we could be able to work cooperatively using computers to solve large problems.”

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