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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