One of modern computing’s visionary pioneers, Douglas C. Engelbart, has died. His inventions helped create today’s personal computers, including the computer mouse and the graphical user interface.
Engelbart was 88, and his wife said he died at his home in Atherton, Calif., as a result of kidney failure.
One of his first innovations was the development of shared computing power in the 1950s, a time when the room-sized electronic calculators then known as computers were used by only one person at a time. He called this method “bootstrapping.”
‘Mother of All Demos’
During the 1960s, he led the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research International (SRI), funded by the Defense Department and NASA. Engelbart’s team developed and then demonstrated a mouse and keyboard that allowed a user to interactively use a computer with results displayed on a screen, and the demonstration included text editing, hyperlinks, windows for navigation and video conferencing. This was a time when the world’s computer scientists who worked with computers had to submit a stack of punch cards, followed by the results hours later.
The major demonstration of that technology, before a thousand computer scientists at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco on Dec. 9, 1968, was so pivotal to the development of modern computing that it has been called “the mother of all demos.” The technology and approaches to computing were further developed at Xerox’s famed Palo Alto Research Center, Apple Computer, Microsoft and elsewhere.
In 1963, Engelbart had invented the mouse, which initially had three buttons and, Engelbart thought, could eventually have as many as ten. Originally, it was a small wooden box with two metal wheels inside that determined the X-Y position of the on-screen cursor.
A file system for the online retrieval of documents that he developed, called the oNLine System or NLS, was…