The Dawn of Interactive Computing

Engelbart's pioneering work in interactive computing was part of his larger vision for "augmenting the human intellect," which he first conceived in the early 1950s. He assumed that people working together toward the common good needed to get much more effective at pursuing their missions. He had never seen a computer but had read enough about them to surmise they could be harnessed to enable all-new ways of working together, and as a former radar technician in WWII he knew that information could be displayed on a screen. He pictured knowledge workers accessing a vast shared knowledge space through highly responsive display workstations. This was at a time when computers were used for complex mathematical and scientific functions, and you would load in your instructions, and come back later for the results.

the first computer mouse in context - circa 1964
The first mouse plugged into it's display workstation - circa 1964

(see our Mouse page for more)

After receiving his PhD in Electrical Engineering from UC Berkeley, he took a research position at Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) in 1957, fleshed out and published his vision in a 1962 report, invented the computer mouse in 1963, had an early prototype working with display monitor along with other input devices by 1964, had hypermedia, groupware and other important pioneering firsts in full operation in his lab by 1967, which he presented in a now-famous 1968 demo:

"Doug Engelbart's presentation at the 1968 Fall Joint Computer Conference, was a live online hypermedia demonstration of the pioneering work that Engelbart's group had been doing at SRI. Later called "The Mother of All Demos" by Andy van Dam, this historic demonstration paved the way for human-computer interaction." read more
    Source: Douglas Engelbart and the Mother of All Demos, Brown University

Doug saw human-computer interaction as just a small part of a larger ecosystem of people interacting with knowledge, people, tools and what he calls our "human system" of conventions, methods, processes, paradigms, etc. We interface with this whole ecosystem. His exploratory work encompassed the whole ecosystem, with a particular emphasis on interface requirements for high-performance knowledge workers and high-performance teams (see references below).

Ivan Sutherland is considered the Father of Interactive Computing for his ground-breaking work on Sketchpad, the interactive display graphics program he developed in 1963. He was soon after, in his position at the ARPA Information Processing Techniques Office under the direction of J.C.R. Licklider, facilitating ARPA's research grant to Engelbart for developing the NLS system at SRI based on his visionary manifesto published in a 1962 Report, in which Engelbart envisioned interactive computing as a vehicle for human interaction with computers, with each other, and with their knowledge, all in a vast virtual information space. In a 1965 Report he published his early experiments with pointing devices, including the mouse, for composing and editing on interactive display workstations. Engelbart's work on interactive computing at SRI migrated directly to Xerox PARC, from there to Apple, and out into the mainstream. Thus the tree of evolution for interactive computing generally traces back to Engelbart's lab at SRI.

In December 2008, on the 40th anniversary of his 1968 demo, SRI sponsored the public commemorative event Engelbart and the Dawn of Interactive Computing in his honor.

See Also

From the Internet

From Doug's Lab