Untitled Document

The Demo turned 55!
How to celebrate? Right here - is rich with story, fun facts, archive footage (test drive our interactive version!), retrospectives, past anniversary events, and more. Share your favs on social media!

NEW! Watch the Trailer (6min)
FUN! Experience the demo interactively

Doug's Great Demo: 1968 0

Welcome to theDemo.org – our main portal into Doug's great demo of 1968 where you will find stories, archive footage and photos, and links to other fabulous resources at Stanford Libraries Special Collections, SRI International, Computer History Museum and more. Experience the demo, and watch retrospectives by Doug and his team recounting their experience.

NEW! Remastered footage from original film!

Intro 1

On December 9th, 1968 Doug Engelbart appeared on stage at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco's Civic Auditorium to give his slated presentation, titled "A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect." He and his team spent the next 90 minutes not only telling about their work, but demonstrating it live to a spellbound audience that filled the hall.

Instead of standing at a podium, Doug was seated at a custom designed console, where he drove the presentation through their NLS computer residing 30 miles away in his research lab at Stanford Research Institute (SRI), onto a large projection screen overhead, flipping seamlessly between his presentation outline and live demo of features, while members of his research lab teleconferenced in from SRI to demonstrate different features of the system. Masterminding the whole production was lead engineer Bill English. As the session came to a close, the audience erupted into a standing ovation.

This seminal demonstration came to be known as "The Mother of All Demos."

Now a 'milestone event' in the history of computing!

Experience the Demo 2

What demo? If you were attending the 1968 conference, you would have seen this Session Poster (shown below) announcing the special session to be presented that Monday afternoon. If you wandered in last minute, the large hall was already packed, standing room only. To appreciate the 'wow factor' watch futurist Paul Saffo spinning "What you are about to see..." as he queues up the demo for a live audience celebrating the 30th anniversary of the demo.

Watch "What you are about to see..." (3min)




The audience of ~2,000 conference-goers erupted into a standing ovation. Watch these comments by three attendees sharing decades later:
Alan Kay (romantic) | Andy van Dam (skeptic) | Charles Irby (instant convert)

"To me he was Moses opening the Red Sea"
– Alan Kay (Source: 1998)

More insights from Alan Kay below



Click to see photo gallery of the Demo project at Facebook

Poster announcing Doug's presentationSession Poster



Memorabilia: See the Session Poster announcing Doug's presentation, his go-to archive photos at his History in Pix, and our photo gallery of the Demo project on Facebook.

Conference Proceedings: Read the paper by Doug and his team that accompanied their presentation: A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect, published in the Proceedings of the 1968 Fall Joint Computer Conference. Check out the conference proceedings Table of Contents to see who all was presenting what [browseable at ACM Library].

What were they thinking?: The story of the demo is as fascinating as the demo itself. Why did they do it, how did they do it, what was it like behind the scenes, who was in the audience, how was it received? Check out Reflecting on the Demo below to hear Doug and his team's reflections, and read Adam Fischer's How Doug Engelbart Pulled off the Mother of All Demos. See Colleagues, Press, and Presidents for more.

Online Exhibits: Explore the MouseSite at Stanford for stories, archive video, photos, and key technical papers from the Douglas C. Engelbart Collection at Stanford Libraries Special Collections.

See SRI's Timeline on Innovation: Computer Mouse and Interactive Computing for concise background and overall significance of the demo.

Browse the virtual exhibits showcasing Doug's work at the Computer History Museum.

NEW! Co-Designing the Console: Learn about Doug's collaboration with Herman-Miller Research, pioneers of the office of the future, who produced the custom swivel console with Eames chair and world's first mousepad used in the demo.

And More: See also the 1968 Demo Table of Contents which links to specific sections of the Demo, the Detailed Onscreen Outline, and a draft transcript of the Demo.

Part of a Larger Vision 3

Most of what Doug and his team presented in 1968 was developed literally "from scratch" by a handful of researchers in the space of roughly 2 years. The system, called NLS, was used day in and day out by the research team for almost every aspect of their work – they were living and breathing the organization of the future and the future of work as an advanced pilot expedition, pushing the envelope of intelligence augmentation and collective IQ with transformative practices and paradigms alongside the rapidly evolving technology, using a special evolutionary bootstrap approach (watch Doug describe the approach during the demo). He reasoned that organizations would have to get alot more effective at tackling wicked problems, especially as we moved into a future of accelerated change and disruption at a scale never before experienced by business or society (yes, he predicted this in 1960 and adapted his strategic vision accordingly). The demo was essentially a snapshot in time on a continuum of cross-cutting breakthrough innovation in which they were rigorously prototyping the fast, fluid organization of the future, while co-evolving the technology in the service of that. See Historic Firsts for more, as well as the Engelbart Academy for his prescient call to action. 3a

The demo was essentially a snapshot in time
on a continuum of cross-cutting breakthrough innovation, in which they were prototyping the fast, fluid organization of the future, while co-evolving the technology in the service of that.

— Christina Engelbart, Executive Director

Reflecting on the Demo 4

Learn more about the making of the demo, the system being demonstrated, the team that made it happen, how and why it was conceived and evolved, its significance, and what it was like working in Doug's innovative lab at that point in time. 4a

Doug and His Team 4b

Watch excerpt of Doug's 1986 reflections

The Augmented Knowledge Workshop
January 1986
Event: ACM Conference on the History of the Personal Workstation (1986)

Watch Doug's 1986 presentation with accompanying paper Workstation History and The Augmented Knowledge Workshop telling the story of his 1968 demo, the work surrounding it, and the vision it represented, with historic photos and personal anecdotes woven throughout. Doug is introduced by Charles Irby, who joined his team in 1968 after seeing the demo live at the conference in San Francisco.

CONTENTS: Intro by Charles | Doug's Talk: Leading up to Demo | Demo Prep | Selected Footage (15min) | Post Demo | Overarching Framework | Q&A

Learn more at Doug's Historic Talk: The Augmented Knowledge Workshop.

Anniversary Events

Some fabulous anniversary events were later held to commemorate the demo, with panel discussions by Doug, members of his research team who participated in the 1968 demo, and invited guests discussing what it took to put on the demo that day, what it was like behind the scenes, and the significance of the work they were doing then and now.

Watch the 1998 panel

30th Anniversary Event:
December 9, 1998
Event: Engelbart's Unfinished Revolution (1998)

Watch the 1998 Panel Discussion with (left to right) moderator Paul Saffo, Doug Engelbart with members of his research team Bill English, Charles Irby, and Jeff Rulifson, plus special guest Stuart Brand.

CONTENTS: Welcome by Paul | "What you are about to see" | Demo Footage (5min) | Back to Paul | Introducing Panelists | Panel Discussion

Contemplating the event's title "The Unfinished Revolution," futurist Paul Saffo remarked: "because the extraordinary thing is, even with the events that were demonstrated 30 years ago, more remains unfinished than has been completed."

Visit the 30th Anniversary event website for more

Watch the 2008 Stanford News report for key takeaways (3min)

because the extraordinary thing is, even with the events that were demonstrated 30 years ago, more remains unfinished than has been completed.
— Paul Saffo, Futurist

Watch the 2008 panel

40th Anniversary Event:
December 9, 2008
Event: Engelbart and the Dawn of Interactive Computing (2008)

Watch the 2008 Panel Discusssion [Part 1 | Part 2] with members of Doug's research team Jeff Rulifson, Bill English, Don Andrews, Bill Paxton, together with special guest Andy van Dam and moderator Bob Sproull discussing the demo and its significance.

Watch the Stanford News Report on the Event (3 min. video) - an excellent compilation.

Visit the 40th Anniversary event website for more.

Watch the 2018 panel

50th Anniversary Event:
December 9, 2018
Event: Demo @50 Symposium (2018)

Watch the 2018 Panel Discusssion with members of Doug's research team Jeff Rulifson, Don Andrews, Martin Hardy, Charles Irby, and Christina Engelbart in session titled "The Making of The Demo: The ARC Team Remembers". Introduced by MC Paul Saffo.

CONTENTS: Introductions | Overview | from First Workstation and the Mouse (1964) | to Multi-User 940 supporting Team Work (1966) | Special Setup for the Demo (1968) | Attending the Demo - Wow Factor | User Community (1970s+) | Computers for Communication

See also from this event:

Visit our 50th Anniversary Symposium website for more.

The 50th Anniversary of Doug Engelbart's landmark Demo
was celebrated on 3+ continents!
Visit theDEMOat50.org/events for details

Oral Histories

Colleagues, Press, and Presidents 4c

Watch President Obama cite Engelbart and the 1968 demo

Watch the other speakers and panelists reflecting on the 1968 Demo at the above events, luminaries such as Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf, Ted Nelson, Alan Kay, Andy van Dam, Bob Taylor, Curt Carlson, Adam Cheyer, Howard Rheingold, John Markoff, Paul Saffo, Bob Sproull, Denise Caruso, Chuck House, and more [30th Anniv. Sessions | 40th Anniv Sessions | 50th Anniv. Sessions]. 4c1

See also this mid-1990s description of the demo by Brown University Center for Graphics and Visualization, Douglas Engelbart and 'The Mother of All Demos'. Andy van Dam, a principal investigator at the Center, attended the 1968 demo and was a guest speaker at all our Anniversary events. 4c3

PRESS: The big 50th anniversary events inspired some great press -- see Demo Press for a sampling. NEW! A Machine for Thinking: How Douglas Engelbart Predicted the Future of Computing, by Steven Johnson for Netguru's Hidden Heroes series. Watch the Stanford News report (3 min). See also top picks from 50th Anniv. Press, 40th Anniv. Press, and 30th Anniv. Press. Browse our Press Newsroom for a more comprehensive collection of articles dating back in time. 4c2

1968 Award

AWARDS: For his "most unusual contribution" to the success of the 1968 conference program, Doug Engelbart was awarded by the conference program organizers a hand carved tribute to his Demo, pictured at left. In recognition for achievements first showcased at the 1968 Demo, Doug Engelbart later received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the IEEE John Von Neumann Medal Award, the Benjamin Franklin Medal, the A.M. Turing Award, the Lemelson-MIT Prize, and the American Ingenuity Award. See Honors Awarded to Doug Engelbart for more on these and other awards.

Inspired Artistic Creations 4d


The Mother of All Demos: An Animated Commentary
In 2009 a Freshman at Baylor University by the name of Philip Heinrich produced an impressive 5 minute video capturing the essence of Doug's goals and vision, combining audio from the 1968 demo with his own animation, which he titled "The Mother of All Demos: An Animated Commentary". Read about the project, the student, and the course and professor he produced it for on our Student Showcase page which includes links to the video on YouTube and to other projects he has authored.

Screenshot: 40th Anniversary Panel   

'The Demo' now an avant garde opera at Stanford
Stanford Live presents an avant garde opera 'The Demo', a musical/video/lightshow reimagining the 1968 "Mother of All Demos" originally presented by Doug Engelbart and his team just down the road at Stanford Research Institute for the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco, December 1968. [Details|Press|Reviews].

See Also 5

On the Web 5a

  Image of Historic Firsts chart Click for more Historic Firsts

  • Visit Historic Firsts - for an overview of Doug Engelbart's many groundbreaking firsts. 5a1 
  • Visit the Stanford MouseSite - a definitive website on the 1968 Demo hosted by Stanford University. 5a2 

Key References 5b

More 5c