Great Moments in Computer History: Douglas Engelbart Presents “The Mother of All Demos” (1968)

Douglas Engelbart, a technology pioneer best known for his invention of the computer mouse, died in Atherton, California on Wednesday. He was 88 years old. Engelbart began working at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI International) in 1957, and there, according to John Markoff’s obituary in The New York Times, he began trying to make the computer screen “a workstation that would organize all the information and communications for a given project.” It’s a concept we take for granted today. But it was considered far-fetched back then. A decade later, Engelbart brought us all into the world of interactive computing and graphic interfaces when, in 1968, he presented what’s now called “The Mother of All Demos.” You can watch it in its entirety above. Stanford’s MouseSite sets the stage for what you’re going to see:

On December 9, 1968, Douglas C. Engelbart and the group of 17 researchers working with him in the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA, presented a 90-minute live public demonstration of the online system, NLS, they had been working on since 1962. The public presentation was a session of the Fall Joint Computer Conference held at the Convention Center in San Francisco, and it was attended by about 1,000 computer professionals. This was the public debut of the computer mouse. But the mouse was only one of many innovations demonstrated that day, including hypertext, object addressing and dynamic file linking, as well as shared-screen collaboration involving two persons at different sites communicating over a network with audio and video interface.

If you want to get right to the action, you can watch the section where Engelbart demos the mouse here, plus see pictures of his original mouse here. Through the links below, you can relive other great moments in computing history.

Related Content:

Pong, 1969: A Milestone in Video Game History

The First 3D Digital Film Created by Ed Catmull, Co-Founder of Pixar (1970)

The First Pizza Ordered by Computer, 1974

Steve Jobs Demos the First Macintosh in 1984

Watch the World’s Oldest Working Digital Computer — the 1951 Harwell Dekatron — Get Fired Up Again



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