Crowd gathers

PALO ALTO, Calif.--Forty years ago this week, Doug Engelbart and fellow researchers at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) gave a demonstration in San Francisco that was a prescient vision of the future: it included a computer mouse, hypertext linking, real-time on-screen text editing, shared-screen teleconferencing, and other revolutionary ideas.

Here, a large crowd fills Memorial Auditorium at Stanford University Tuesday to watch a video of the historic demo and hear original team members recount their groundbreaking work.

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Demo of cut and paste functions

Engelbart kicked off the 1968 demo by asking: "If in your office, you as an intellectual worker were supplied with a computer display backed up by a computer that was alive for you all day and was instantly...responsive to every action you had, how much value could you derive from that? Well this basically characterizes what we've been pursuing for many years in what we call the Augmented Human Intellect Research Center at Stanford Research Institute."

Here, he demonstrates cut and paste functions.

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Keyboard

In the demo, Engelbart's keyboard is flanked by a mouse and a "keyset" that could input characters. For example, the left hand might type out DW for "delete word" on the command line using the keyset or the keyboard. The right hand would direct the mouse to the word to be deleted. Clicking once on the mouse button selected the word by putting an arrow under it; a second click executed the delete command.
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Desktop video-conferencing circa 1968

Want some real-time desktop video-conferencing and application sharing? You got it, circa 1968.
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Borel greets Englelbart

Prior to the screening, Daniel Borel, co-founder and board member of Logitech, greets Engelbart. Logitech, founded in 1981, recently announced it had sold 1 billion computer mice .
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Sproull interviews members of Engelbart's Augmentation Research Center

Bob Sproull, far left, a researcher at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in the 1970s, interviews members of Engelbart's Augmentation Research Center. From left to right: Sproull, Don Andrews, Bill English, Bill Paxton, Jeff Rulifson, and Andries van Dam.
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Alan Kay

Famed computer researcher Alan Kay spoke at the event about the impact of Engelbart's work, but noted that computers and the Internet have a long way to go to fully realize the dream of fundamentally changing how humans think and learn. While at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center in the 1970s, Kay and fellow researchers developed the Smalltalk programming language and other advances that made their way into Apple's groundbreaking Lisa and Macintosh computers.
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Tom Hagan shows off the 'first commercial mouse'

Tom Hagan, right, shows Engelbart (with granddaughter Emily Mangan) what Hagan described as the first commercial mouse. The mouse was built around 1970 by Computer Displays Inc., which Hagan's company later acquired.
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Wheels on mouse

Tom Hagan shows the wheels that directed the cursor on what he called the first commercial mouse.
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First mouse built after Engelbart's prototype

An SRI representative described this mouse as being the first built after Engelbart's prototype.
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Bill English poses with wood mouse

Bill English, one of the members of Engelbart's Augmentation Research Center, poses with his 1960s creation, a mouse carved from wood.
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Mouse bottom

The bottom of an early mouse built in the mid-1960s by Bill English, based on Engelbart's design.
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Engelbart and his old friend

Engelbart and his old friend. While the mouse may be the most recognizable product of his 1968 demo, it represented just one small element in Engelbart's vision of creating tools and processes for augmenting human knowledge through networked computers.
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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor conceived and initiated a project called ARPAnet for networking distant computers, a forerunner of the Internet. At Tuesday's event he recounted that in the 1960s, each computer had one terminal and its own language. "An idiot could see that this is silly," he recalled thinking, so he proposed one terminal that could access many computers via networking. Many were "skeptical," he said, but not Engelbart.
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Taylor recalls Engelbart story about expenses

Taylor recalls a story he heard from Engelbart: prior to the 1968 demo, a government contracting officer, concerned about expenses, tried to distance himself from the event. "If this thing comes off, I'm going to deny ever knowing anything about it," the officer told Engelbart.
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Alan Kay

Alan Kay explains that Engelbart's vision in the 1960s was to use computers to unleash the power to accelerate, or augment, human knowledge. Alas, he said, the "commercial explosion has almost completely trumped" the ideals of those early days.
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Engelbart's creed

Engelbart's creed: "The better we get, the better we get at getting better."
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Engelbart closing 1968 demo

Engelbart closed his 1968 demo by thanking his 17-person team, for "backing me all these years in this wild dream of doing this sort of thing and they're all catching fire and I want to just tell them all right now that I owe them a lot." Forty years later, they thanked him back.
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Engelbart with wife

A humble Engelbart, with wife Karen (Wikipedia says he remarried in 2008), was clearly moved and appreciative of the accolades he received. Forty years earlier, in closing his demo, he said: "A very final credit goes to my wife and daughters who are out here to whom I'd like to dedicate this whole presentation because of what they've put up with over these years, with a husband that (is) dedicated in a monomaniacal way to something that is very wild."

Wild indeed. You can learn more about Engelbart's work at the Doug Engelbart Institute.

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