Computer Mouse Maker Douglas Engelbart Dies At 88

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Douglas Engelbart, a visionary and a pioneer in the computing industry died at the age of 88. He was the inventor of the computer mouse and other technologies that improve people’s lives.

Computer Mouse Maker Douglas Engelbart Dies At 88

Engerlbart’s daughter and biographer Cristina notified the Computer Museum in Mountain View, California regarding his death in an e-mail on Wednesday. The inventor has been a fellow at the museum since 2005. ABC News also reported that he passed away.

Douglas Engelbart Served As Electronics Technician In WWII

During the World War II, Engelbart served as an electronic technician for the United States Navy. In the late 1950s he started working at the Stanford Research Institute. Back then, the punched card technology was used for business data processing; he envisioned that computers would become a powerful tool for people to communicate and solve problems.

He applied for a patent for the first computer mouse in June 1967. He developed the first graphic user interface and the mouse for computers during his tenure at the SRI. Engelbart said that his work in the computing industry is about “augmenting human intellect.” He received a patent for the computer mouse in 1970.  The computer mouse was designed with a wooden shell covering with two metal wheels and three buttons; an “X-Y position indicator for display system.”

Douglas Engelbart’s patent application for the computer mouse reads, “This invention relates to visual display systems, and more particularly, to device for alternating the display at selected locations.” Xerox PARC popularized the computer mouse when it started testing it, and then Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) decided to integrate the device with its Lisa computer in 1983.

During an interview in December 1986, Douglas Engelbart said that it wasn’t him who called the device a “mouse”. He said, “No one can remember [who came up with the name]. In the lab, the very first one we built had the cord coming out the back. It wasn’t long before we realized that it would get in the way, and then we changed it to the front. But, when it was trailing out the back like that sitting there, just its funny little shape.”

Curtis R. Carlson, CEO of SRI International said that Douglas Engelbart “brought tremendous value to society.” He added “We will miss his genius, warmth and charm. Douglas Engelbart’s legacy is immense. Anyone in the world who uses a mouse or enjoys the productive benefits of a personal computer is indebted to him.”

On the other hand, in a interview with ABC News, Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) expressed his admiration for Engelbart, and emphasized that his contributions are more than the computer mouse.

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“I have admired him so much. Everything we have in computers can be traced to his thinking. 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,” said Wozniak.

In addition Wozniak said, “The networking ideas were even more significant than the mouse. He did this way before the Internet. He was thinking about how computers could solve some of the main problems for mankind before many.”

Douglas Engelbart was among the individuals who worked on the ARPANET, the large wide area network of computers created by the United States Advance Research Project Agency (ARPA) linking universities and research centers and serves as precursor to new networking technologies. He also worked on the concept of digital collaboration or “groupware,” and the first person to demonstrate the on-screen video teleconferencing.

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