The Mother Of All Demos

Funny place the internet. Or maybe we’re the ones that are funny. Maybe it’s just me, funny peculiar. You know, I never thought of looking for The Mother Of All Demos on the web.

Then, last week, I had the opportunity of attending a Doug Engelbart seminar at MIT, and the incredible privilege of having a private dinner with him, courtesy Tom Malone and the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence. [My thanks to all concerned.] Naturally, I looked for the video soon after, and there it was.

If you haven’t seen it already, do look at it: link. I’ve also shown it in my VodPod in the sidebar to this blog. It’s an hour and 15 minutes long; do not adjust your set when watching it, there is no sound for the first few minutes. I think everyone who has any interest in computing should watch it and hear from the man who, along with his team, gave us the mouse, hypertext, and the precursor to today’s GUI.

It is also worth going to this link, if you have the time.

Most of you know my views on the unusability of today’s patent regime. So you can imagine how I felt when I learnt about this (I quote from Wikipedia, but I had heard of it independently):

In 1967, Engelbart applied for, and in 1970 he received a patent for the wooden shell with two metal wheels (computer mouse U.S. Patent 3,541,541 ), describing it in the patent application as an “X-Y position indicator for a display system”. Engelbart later revealed that it was nicknamed the “mouse” because the tail came out the end. His group also called the on-screen cursor a “bug,” but this term was not widely adopted.

He never received any royalties for his mouse invention, partly because his patent expired in 1987, before the personal computer revolution made the mouse an indispensable input device, and also because subsequent mice used different mechanisms that did not infringe upon the original patent.

I’m glad to hear that Logitech provide Doug with free office space and support; other companies (and there are a few slightly bigger ones (!) ) should note and follow suit.

4 thoughts on “The Mother Of All Demos”

  1. Barely a minute into his presentation, just after having described how people might work with information using a computer, Engelbart airs the question: How much value could you derive from that? (His smile suggests that he suspects ‘a lot’ of value could be derived from it.)

    The question is a sound guide in research and business. Are too few people asking it too infrequently today?

  2. I’m a big fan of Malone’s The Future of Work, and have often thought that the two of you could have some great conversations, JP. It thrills me (perhaps more than it should) to learn that you two know one another.

Let me know what you think