Douglas Engelbart, the inventor of the computer mouse and a number of other technologies, has died at age 88.
The inventor of the computer mouse and other technologies that are now a huge part of the way we communicate has passed away peacefully in his sleep after suffering from deteriorating health.
The California-based Computer History Museum was notified of his quiet passing by his daughter Christina in an email. Born on January 30 1925, he studied electrical engineering at Oregon State University and also worked at Naca (NASA’s predecessor) as an electrical engineer.
Engelbart originally developed the computer mouse in the 1960s as a wooden shell covering two metal wheels, naming it the “X-Y position indicator for a display system”.
It was actually his fellow researchers that affectionately dubbed his invention the ‘mouse’, and according to his daughter Christina, Engelbart actually preferred his own more technological name. Of course, the simpler moniker proved a little more popular with consumers.
However, Engelbart also had many other ideas that were far ahead of his time in terms of computer technology.
Baring in mind that he lived in an era when computers filled entire rooms with data fed to them via punch cards, Engelbart presented a huge amount of ideas in a legendary presentation known as the “mother of all demos” in San Francisco in 1968.
Including the first demonstration of the mouse, Engelbart had come up with early embodiments of video teleconferences, word processing software and email. He even explained the theory of text-based links, the basis of which would form the architecture of the internet.
Unfortunately, Engelbart was too ahead of his time in some respects. He made little money from the mouse as his 17 year long patent expired in 1987 before computer mice became widely used.
Apple was the first to really make use of the technology. SRI licensed the Curpertino company the mouse in 1983 for $40,000 (£26,000).
Now, over 1 billion computer mice have been sold.
Engelbart always said his work was about “augmenting human intellect” rather than automation and made his mission to make computers more intuitive to use.
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