Thursday, July 4, 2013

RIP Doug Engelbart

Yes, the inventor of the mouse is dead: But Doug Engelbart was such an inventive person and that only the mouse is attributed to him is a gross understatement of his importance to modern computing and how we work with computers.

When he invented the mouse, computers were hardly interactive at all. Timesharing providers, todays ISPs, had begun to appear, but this was more for academic use and for computer geeks, of which there were few. What Engelbart envisioned when the mouse was invented was something completely different from computing as it was seen back then. Computing and computers not as a massive calculator or Rolodex, but as a tool to augment the human and thinking mans brain.

This wasn't just the mouse, the thinking went far beyond that. Doug Engelbart was the mastermind behind the Mother of all demos, see here on youtube. Note, this was in 1968. Truly interactive computers was still rocket science.

Mouse, Windows. you name it, Doug thought about it. Maybe his visions weren't exactly how we use computers today, but still pretty close, and the concepts sure were spot on.

Read more on Doug Engelbart in The New York Times for example. And before I close up this post, think about how difficult it was to invent the mouse. Not technically, and you can see what it looked like at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. No the difficult lies in thinking up what it would be used for. In an environment were computers were running in batch, where a computer user was either someone who was a programmer or someone how got data from a programmer, when there were no GUI, no interactive text editors, no spreadsheets, no internet and, you youngsters listen carefully now, no Facebook. Scary, huh? At a time when a mini-computers, such as a PDP-8, which was just about to be introduced and was the size or a major appliance and less processing power than a similar major appliance of today. This was when Doug figured out we should be interactive with computers, and that was revolutionary only that, but he also set out to implement that interactive system and developed and invented the tools he need for this, such as the mouse, in the process.

Without Vanevar Bush and Doug Engelbart, thing would be very different, and they could see this happening way back in the 1950's, and in the case of Bush, even earlier. But whereas Vanevar Bush was a visionary, Engelbart was this, but also an inventor and implementer, ready to create the future he envisioned. An impressive guy for sure.

RIP Doug, thanx for everything and in particular for being such an inspiration.