photo of Doug and colleague Using com­pu­ters to com­pose, study, mod­ify, research, brain­storm, plan, co­or­di­nate – toward more effec­tive collective action
Watch Doug present his goals re: online knowledge work (3min)
Watch those goals in action in this Trailer for Doug's 1968 demo (5min)

Historic Firsts:
For Knowledge Work 0

Intro 1

Doug Engelbart was the first to envision and apply computers to facilitating what came to be called "knowledge work," from his initial epiphany in 1951 of a vast information space accessed through display terminals by intellectual workers, to his 1968 demonstration, and beyond. Doug held a strong and long-standing conviction that improving our basic knowledge work capability would be crucial for the future of humanity, as stated in the opening paragraphs of his his seminal 1962 report Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework: 1a

By "augmenting human intellect" we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension, the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble. And by "complex situations" we include the professional problems of diplomats, executives, social scientists, life scientists, physical scientists, attorneys, designers—whether the problem situation exists for twenty minutes or twenty years. We do not speak of isolated clever tricks that help in particular situations. We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human "feel for a situation" usefully co-exist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids.
Douglas C. Engelbart, 1962 [source]

Based on this report, Doug received initial funding to begin experimenting with basic interactive display editing, which grew into the full-featured NLS system, designed to facilitate his research goal of  helping intellectual workers become dramatically more effective. NLS featured numerous firsts: collaborative, hyperlinked, interactive, networked personal and organizational computing. 1b

By 1968 his research team was using NLS operationally for all aspects of their knowledge work, within a growing online repository of memos, drafts, notes, project plans, design documents, source code, system documentation, proposals, reports, thinkpieces, papers, presentations, etc. This was true across the project team of software and hardware engineers, tech writers, managers, support staff, etc., and later including a marketing and customer support group. NLS provided a uniform environment for composing, versioning, navigating, perusing, reviewing, sharing, studying, modifying, hyperlinking etc., throughout, as well as knowledge management and visualization aids. 1c

In the examples that follow from Doug and his team in their 1968 and 1969 demos, you can see the fluidity and ease with which they work, even while they have slowed down quite a bit for demo purposes. Doug's paradigm was one of intelligence as distributed, and augmentable, a network of ideas that one can quickly and seamlessly traverse and add to, connect the dots on the fly, as an extension of the human mind pursuing its thoughts and insights. This enabled a robust virtual group mind to emerge: 1d

Further Refinement 2

Doug Engelbart continued to refine his strategic approach to knowledge work, along with terminology for key concepts, throughout his career. He coined the terms Augmenting Human Intellect (aka Intelligence Augmentation), Collective IQ, Dynamic Knowledge Repositories (DKR), CoDIAK (for the Concurrent Development, Integration, and Application of Knowledge as the core process for advancing knowledge), a technology template for a world wide Open Hyperdocument System (OHS) of interoperable tools to support these capabilities, and Networked Improvement Communities (NICs) for networked initiatives that give special focus to advancing these capabilities. Key lectures and management seminars by Doug Engelbart covering these foundational concepts are freely available at the Engelbart Academy. Doug Engelbart won dozens of prestigious awards for his pioneering technological breakthroughs, but his model, usage requirements, and overarching paradigm for augmenting our collective intellect that shaped those technological breakthroughs are still quite relevant, crucial in fact, and remain largely unaddressed by today's prevailing paradigms. 2a

Awards & Recognition 3

2000 National Medal of Technology

For his pioneering work For his visionary work related to knowledge work and the foundations of the information age, Doug Engelbart received several top awards, including the Lovelace Medal, the National Medal of Technology & Innovation, the IEEE John Von Neumann Medal Award, ACM's A.M. Turing Award, the Price Waterhouse Lifetime Achievement Award, and special recognition by the American Society for Information Science. See Honors Awarded to Doug Engelbart for details on these and other awards. 3a

See Also 4

Explore the Web 4a

  Image of Historic Firsts chart Click for more Historic Firsts

  • Visit Historic Firsts - for more of Doug Engelbart's many groundbreaking firsts.
  • Visit Doug's Vision for Humanity - all these Historic Firsts were part of a larger vision for forging a better world.
  • Visit Doug's Great Demo: 1968 - brings to life his early accomplishments with archive footage, photos, fun facts, story, and retrosectives (aka the "Mother of All Demos" – snippets shown above).
  • Visit Honors Awarded to Doug Engelbart - learn about the many awards Doug received for his trailblazing work.

From Doug's Lab 4b