Epiphany to Human Intelligence for 88 Years; Computer Mouse Inventor Engelbart Dies at 88

  • Jul, 04, 2013, 01:11 PM
First Computer Mouse
(Photo : getty images)

The inventor of the computer mouse, Douglas C. Engelbart, has died aged 88.

His daughter, Christina, in an email, notified the state's Computer History Museum of his death.

Engelbart had been in lowly health and died peacefully on Tuesday night in his sleep at his home in Atherton, Calif.

Born in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 25, 1925, Engelbart served as a U.S. Navy electronic radar technician at Oregon State University during World War II.

He then worked at Nasa's predecessor-Naca-as an electrical engineer, but soon left to pursue his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley.

Then, he began working at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in the late 1950s.

His laboratory helped develop ARPANet, the government research network that led to the internet.

In 1960s, he developed the tool, which was at the time a thick wooden device with two wheels and three buttons, patenting it long before the mouse's widespread use. He showed off the first mouse in 1968 at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco, Calif.

While he unveiled the first mouse, he also revealed a method of controlling a computer with a mouse and keyboard, which even the world's leading computer scientists could not fathom, according to The New York Times.

"In little more than an hour, he showed how a networked, interactive computing system would allow information to be shared rapidly among collaborating scientists," reporter John Markoff wrote. "He demonstrated how a mouse, which he invented just four years earlier, could be used to control a computer. He demonstrated text editing, video conferencing, hypertext and windowing."

He also worked on early incarnations of email, word processing and video teleconferences at a California research institute.

Before the device became widely used, the patent ran out and he could not make much money from the mouse.

SRI licensed the technology in 1983 for $40,000 to Apple.

At least one billion computer mice have been sold.

Engelbart's greatest contributions go way beyond the mouse.

"I have admired him so much. Everything we have in computers can be traced to his thinking," said Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder, according to ABC News. "To me, he is a god. He gets recognized for the mouse, but he really did an awful lot of incredible stuff for computer interfaces and networking.

"The networking ideas were even more significant than the mouse," Wozniak said. "He did this way before the Internet. He was thinking about how computers could solve some of the main problems for mankind before many."

Engelbart won the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT prize in 1997 and the National Medal of Technology for "creating the foundations of personal computing" in 2000.

Since 2005, he had been a member at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

He is lasted by his second wife, Karen O'Leary Engelbart, and four children.



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