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Inventor Of Computer Mouse Passes Away

Inventor Of Computer Mouse Passes Away
7/4/2013 4:00 AM ET

Doug Engelbart, the American engineer who invented computer mouse, passed away on Tuesday night at his home in Atherton, California.

The 88-year-old inventor is survived by four children and his second wife Karen O'Leary Engelbart.

The Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, California, from where Engelbart made the ground-breaking inventions, said his vision was to solve humanity's most important problems by using computers to improve communication and collaboration.

"Doug was a giant who made the world a much better place and who deeply touched those of us who knew him," said SRI President and CEO Curtis R. Carlson, adding that "anyone in the world who uses a mouse or enjoys the productive benefits of a personal computer is indebted to him."

Engelbart's work is the very foundation of personal computing and the Internet. He was world famous for his invention of the computer mouse and the origins of interactive computing.

Engelbart joined SRI International in 1957 and led its Augmentation Research Center (ARC) - the lab he founded - from 1959 to 1977. He worked with other computing pioneers to develop innovations such as display editing, online processing, linking and in-file object addressing, use of multiple windows, hypermedia, and context-sensitive help.

His laboratory helped develop the government research network ARPANet, predecessor to the Internet.

Engelbart's debut of his innovations was on December 9, 1968. Engelbart and the researchers displayed the mouse for the first time in the presentation, became known as the "Mother of All Demos." But the mouse was only one of many innovations demonstrated that day, including hypertext, object addressing and dynamic file linking, as well as shared-screen collaboration involving two persons at different sites communicating over a network with audio and video interface.

He received patent for computer mouse in 1970 for the wooden shell with two metal wheels, which he had developed with Bill English, his lead engineer. In the patent application it is described as an "X-Y position indicator for a display system." Engelbart later revealed that it was nicknamed the "mouse" because the tail came out at the end.

Engelbart describes the early development of the mouse: "I first started making notes for the mouse in '61. At the time, the popular device for pointing on the screen was a light pen, which had come out of the radar program during the war. It was the standard way to navigate, but I didn't think it was quite right…We set up our experiments and the mouse won in every category, even though it had never been used before. It was faster, and with it people made fewer mistakes. Five or six of us were involved in these tests, but no one can remember who started calling it a mouse. I'm surprised the name stuck."

He is said to have received no royalties for his mouse invention. "SRI patented the mouse, but they really had no idea of its value. Some years later it was learned that they had licensed it to Apple Computer for something like $40,000," he is quoted as saying in an interview in an article on Wikipedia.

Among his many accolades, Engelbart received the National Medal of Technology in 2000, the Lemelson-MIT Prize in 1997, and the Turing Award, also in 1997.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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