The man, who brought us the much-used computer mouse as well as 20 other patents, breathed his last on Tuesday. Douglas Engelbart, a technologist introduced the world to much of the computer paraphernalia that we take for granted today. According to Bloomberg, he was a true genius who was humble enough not to collect any royalties on his 21 patents, one of which was the computer mouse. Douglas dies of kidney failure. He was an octogenarian. Having lived 88 years on this planet, Douglas was a productive soul who continuously tinkered and explored stuff in order to invent gizmos and gadgets.
In 1968, he gave a presentation that would later on be termed the “mother of all demos”. In this Douglas introduced so many far-reaching ideas and concepts that it struck a chord with the audience. He publicly presented the computer mouse by showing how it worked with a cathode ray tube. Later on Douglas would apologize for the odd name of the device. He said that maybe it should be renamed with a more dignified epithet. The only explanation he was able to give was that the mouse had an electric cord and a main body that resembled the tail and physical structure of a common mouse. The presentation he gave was an hour long but would have repercussions that would last through more than half a century. At present we are enjoying computer products that owe their original prototypes to the intricate creativity of this unique individual. Among some of the other inventions Douglas was responsible for are videoconferencing and hypertext. The man was a fundamental part of the team that laid the foundation for the Internet.
In his times, computing was either the province of big government or some counter-cultural groups. Douglas wasn’t greedy for money though. What he wanted instead was to augment the human intellect by means of smart machines. He envisioned a society where groups of individuals could spend time sharing and manipulating information on computers. Employed at the SRI, Douglas did a lot of valuable work which can be compared to the exploration of outer space or the finding of a medical cure. He managed to win the National Medal of Technology and the Turing Award. The source of his inspiration was originally an article written by Vannevar Bush which he found in a library. It inspired a creative spark in him that lasted till his dying day. We all owe him a debt of gratitude and may his soul rest in peace.
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