Whoo hoo! Today is the mouse’s 40th birthday! And I’m not talking about Walt’s adorable cartoon, but that handy device both the Mac & PC can agree on. 40 years ago today hi-tech visionary Dr. Douglas Engelbart first used one to demonstrate creative ways of working with computers. His novel invention was made of wood and had one button. Dr Engelbart used the innovative apparatus in a demo at the Fall Joint Computer Conference (FJCC).
In an example of true visionary display, much of the technology shown off in that particular demo inspired the creation of the hardware and software now widely used. The mouse helped Dr Engelbart demonstrate how text files could be clipped, copied and pasted as well as showing ways of using computer networks to collaborate on projects or co-edit documents.
Dr. Engilbert’s work was not done alone. In 1968 Dr Jeff Rulifson, now director of Sun’s VLSI research group, was the architect and lead programmer for the software shown off at the FJCC. And the mouse piece itself was actually built by Bill English. The team had been assembled by Dr. Engilbert at the Stanford Research Institute in California in 1965. Rulifson’s capabilities helped Engilbert create an environ ment for his vision. Dr Engelbart wanted computers to act as helpers that augmented human intelligence and enabled people to operate far more efficiently and productively than they would without such tools. (Hmmm… becareful what you wish for as so many of us procrastinate by surfing the web!).
The demo was so far ahead of other uses of computers at the time and the technology on show was so powerfully convincing that one attendee later likened Dr Engelbart’s efforts to “dealing lightning with both hands”.
We thank the men and their efforts for this milestone in history. I hope more people will remember them and their roles in technology’s history.