Douglas Carl Engelbart of Stanford Research Institute demonstrates his oNLine System (NLS) at the Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco. This system uses a bizarre pointing device he had devised--he calls it a mouse--along with a keyboard. During his 90-minute presentation, he manages three world debuts: the inaugural voyage of the mouse, the first onscreen video teleconferencing, and the first use of hypermedia.
Doug Engelbart started thinking about building a thought-amplifying device back when Harry Truman was President, and he has spent the last thirty years stubbornly pursuing his original vision of building a system for augmenting human intellect. At one point in the late 1960s, Engelbart and his crew of infonauts demonstrated to the assembled cream of computer scientists and engineers how the devices most people then used for performing calculations or keeping track of statistics could be used to enhance the most creative human activities.
His former students have gone on to form a disproportionate part of the upper echelons of today's personal computer designers. Partially because of the myopia of his contemporaries, and partially because of his almost obsessive insistence on maintaining the purity of his original vision, most of Engelbart's innovations have yet to be adapted by the computer orthodoxy.
-_Tools For Thought_ by Howard Rheingold
While Engelbart's name may be forever associated with a chunk of hardware, the panelists at the event made it clear that the scope of Engelbart's vision went beyond the mouse. His true legacy, said Stanford history professor Tim Lenoir, was in perceiving computers as facilitators for communication, rather than mere computation.
Lenoir quoted from a note that Engelbart had written to himself in 1964 after a brainstorming session for the ARPAnet -- the government-funded precursor to the Internet -- that enthused that the advent of network computing was going to signify "a revolution like the development of writing and the printing press" combined. Under Engelbart's aegis, a computer at Stanford became the second machine patched into the embryonic Net.
The key to Engelbart's vision was the notion of bootstrapping: using computers and computer-assisted communication to "boost the collective IQ" and "get better at getting better."