[unrev-II] National Medal of Technology

From: Henry van Eyken (vaneyken@sympatico.ca)
Date: Mon Nov 13 2000 - 16:57:14 PST

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    It's official!

    Douglas Engelbart will be awarded the 2000 National Medal of Technology
    by President Clinton at a black-tie, gala banquet in the National
    Building Museum on the evening of Friday, December 1, 2000. Other
    recipients of the NMT are Dean Karnen, Donald B. Keck, Robert D. Maurer,
    Peter Schultz, and the IBM Corporation. President Clinton will also be
    awarding National Medals of Science.

    Related ceremonies will include a roundtable discussion between the
    Laureates and young people who have demonstrated an aptitude for science
    and engineering. This will enable young people to discuss their
    interests and solicite guidance from the Laureates, who are role models
    for America's youth. Plans are neing made for a webcast at approximately
    10:45 a.m., November 30.

    On Friday, December 1, at 10:30 a.m., a press roundtable will be held
    for both science and technology Laureates in the International Trade
    Center (Ronald Regan Building).

    Following are the Citation and a brief biography of Doug Engelbart. In
    the meantime, we are awaiting an electronic reproduction of the medal as
    we are preparing a special home page (typo-free) for the


    Contribution Category: General Product & Process Innovation

    Citation: For creating the foundations of personal computing including
    continuous real-time interaction based on cathode-ray tube displays and
    the mouse, hypertext linking, text editing, online journals,
    shared-screen teleconferencing, and remote collaborative work.

    Brief Biography: Dr. Engelbart, more than any other single person, set
    the stage for that component of the computer revolution now called
    personal computing. During the early 1960s, when the hallmark of
    computing was large mainframe computers, he correctly saw that a close,
    interactive, and continuous relationship between computer and its user
    would yield enormous benefit in making that person motre efficient and
    effective. Nor was it all vision. During that time he perfected the
    notions of on-line, real-time systems that caused machines to deliver to
    their users what they wanted when they wanted it, all interactively.
    This work came to define the functionality of personal computing even
    though some time would pass before the personal computer itself would be
    affordable for an individual user. As Director of a laboratory at
    Stanford Research Institute that grew to a staff of 40 to 50 members, he
    and they created many of the concepts and tools of personal computing
    that we take for granted over thirty years later. The concepts of
    point-and-click and hypertext are just two that have come to define the
    ease with which we now interact with computers. Over two dozen of the
    properties and capabilities of present computers were demonstrated by
    the mid-1970s (see Comprehensive Description).

    As important as these contributions were, they were but stepping stones
    toward Dr. Engelbart's ultimate goal of elevating the competency of an
    entire organization through the augmentation of its members through
    distributed computing systems. Most of the software innovations were
    embedded in an integrated groupware system he called NLS, one of the
    first interactibve systems anywhere. All this was made possible for the
    first time at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in December 1968 in San
    Fransisco. On a huge screen at the Conference, he jointly edited a
    document (two cursors) with a collaborator 40 miles away at SRI in Menlo

    Through video windows on each workstation, they had a full personal and
    computer-based interaction. His conviction about distributed computer
    systems led to his group being the second node on the fledling ARPANET
    and later the Internet. His Network Information Center was the entryway
    for anyone getting an address for these new networks for over twenty

    This early establishment of what personal and collaborative computing
    should be helped create a prescription of what for how computers were to
    evolve. These directions included hardware, such as cathode display
    tubes and the mouse, which he invented, and network interfaces. They
    included software directions such as windowing hypermedia and hypertext
    shared-screen teleconferencing, and, importantly, the concepts and
    methods of on-line text and graphics processing. These foundations made
    it clear that computers would have this new role of continuous, proximal
    support of an individual, working either alone or, through networking,
    as part of a group. At least four of Dr. Engelbart's staff transferred
    to Xerox Park where bit-map displays, icons and the desktop metaphor
    with its overlapping windows were created. When Steve Jobs of fledgling
    Apple Computer saw all this, he understood immediately the ingredients
    of what came to be the MacIntosh. SRI has issued licences for the mouse
    to both Xerox and Apple Computer.

    So, the enablement of Moore's Law and this personalized functionality
    for computers opened the doors to one of the most dramatic sector
    growths in history. That Dr. Engelbart forsaw this kind of impact is
    illustrated by this quote from his 1970-paper: "There will emerge a new
    marketplace, representing fantastc wealth in commodities of knowledge,
    service, information, processing, storage, ...." This anticipation of
    the way computers should and would ultimately serve individuals clearly
    helped establish the primacy of the United States in the information era
    and it still enjoys the competitive advantage of that accelerated

    The National Medal of Technology is "to recognize technological
    innovators who have made lasting contributions to enhancing America's
    competitiveness and standard of living" and whose solid science results
    in "commercially successful products and services." This could not be a
    more apt description of Dr. Engelbart and his life's work.

    (to be continued on the site ...)

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