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bruce jenkins, aesthetics, sports

1968: december 9

As expected, I couldn't maintain a recap of 1968 throughout the entire year. But I didn't want to let that project die without paying tribute to one more event from that monumental year, an event I've spoken of a couple of times before on this blog. It's something now known as The Mother of All Demos.


The Chronicle actually ran a fairly detailed piece on this yesterday, since Stanfurd is having an anniversary presentation today. Here is the blurb for the original session:

This session is entirely devoted to a presentation by Dr. Engelbart on a computer-based, interactive, multiconsole display system which is being developed at Stanford Research Institute under the sponsorship of ARPA, NASA and RADC. The system is being used as an experimental laboratory for investigating principles by which interactive computer aids can augment intellectual capability. The techniques which are being described will, themselves, be used to augment the presentation.

A mouthful, to be sure, but the basics are both simple and astonishing. On December 9, 1968, 40 years ago, Doug Engelbart gave a presentation where he introduced tools like the computer mouse to the world at large. When it says "principles by which interactive computer aids can augment intellectual capability," it means ... well, it means a large chunk of what many of us do everyday on our personal and work computers. And this was in 1968.

The link above takes you to video of the presentation ... it's long, but fascinating. Some of the descriptions on that page of the video give a sense of the breadth and foresight on what was being shown:

  • Doug introduction, "if you had a workstation at your disposal all day that was perfectly responsible....or responsive."
  • Word processing beginning with "blank piece of paper," text entry, Illustrates cut, copy, file creation including header with name, date, creator. Doug is shown using keyboard, mouse, and chord keyset.
  • Doug demonstrates capability ... to jump between levels in the architecture of a text, making cross references, creating Internal linking and live hyperlinks within a file.
  • This segment discusses control devices, the keyboard and mouse. "I don't know why we call it a mouse. It started that way and we never changed it."
  • Doug illustrates how NLS can be used to construct, collaboratively modify, and ultimately publish reports and papers. He shows how to examine and modify the paper he and his colleagues wrote for this conference, sets formatting for printing, hypertext linking and viewing of document.