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Inventor of PC mouse, Douglas Engelbart, breathes his last

Every time, we click the mouse in an internet search, we owe a word of thanks to Douglas Engelbart, its inventor. Engelbart, who had years before time visualized the scope of Internet and conceptualized the PC mouse, died at 88 years of age on Tuesday night.

Douglas Engelbart dies

Douglas Engelbart succumbed to kidney failure on Tuesday night. Today we feel handicapped without the internet, but this vision was seen decades before by Engelbart, a technologist who ended up conceiving the mouse used in the personal computers.

More about Engelbart

In San Fransisco, on a chilly afternoon in 1968, Engelbart was busy rendering a presentation before almost 1000 leading technologists. A presentation that can be safely termed as the “mother of all demos” was given by this young Computer scientist from Stanford Research Institute (SRI).

At that young age, his presentation stunned everyone with far flung ideas regarding the first public unveiling of the “PC mouse”. He mesmerized all with “two rolling discs that made a cubic device” and called these rolling movable discs 'X-Y position indicator for a display system.'

He managed to bring the voice and image of an associate who was about 30 miles away right in front of everybody. Can you imagine, people, this was the basis of the first video conference!!

Engelbart spoke about the use of text based links that could be utilized in order to thread information pages together. This was the theory he visualized years ago and today it forms the basis of Web architecture. According to him, computers were the answer to increase the intellect of human beings. He visioned highly productive people sitting on shared computers, spending long hours dabbling through information on the machines.

Apple ,SRI grab Mouse

Generally a person who makes a discovery earns an explosive amount of remuneration from the find, but Engelbart did not enjoy this moneyed glory. SRI patented the mouse and later licensed the mouse to Apple; he got no royalty from the deals.

In a proposal made by him at SRI in 1961, he said "The possibilities we are pursuing involve an integrated man-machine working relationship, where close, continuous interaction with a computer avails the human of radically changed information-handling and -portrayal skills.” Making a valid argument he states that computers can "competes in social significance with research toward harnessing thermonuclear power, exploring outer space, or conquering cancer."

Talking about the Engelbart vision, Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development Corporation, stated "To see the Internet and the World Wide Web become the dominant paradigms in computing is an enormous vindication of his vision. It's almost like Leonardo da Vinci envisioning the helicopter hundreds of years before they could actually be built."

The Truing award and the National Medal of Technology rested in the Engelbart kitty by the year 2000.