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Inventor of the computer mouse dies at 88

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Though the mouse didn't become the standard way to control a desktop computer until Apple released the Macintosh in 1984, it was first invented 20 years earlier by a visionary World War II veteran named Douglas C. Engelbart, who passed away this week at the age of 88.

Mouse
Left: Douglas C Engelbart with an early computer mouse in 1968 (Photo via SRI International). Right: Apple's Magic Mouse, launched in 2009.


Engelbart's legacy will live on as the pioneer who showed off the first mouse in 1968 at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco, Calif. There, according to The New York Times, he showed more than a thousand of the world's leading computer scientists a method of controlling a computer with a mouse and keyboard.

"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."

Born in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 25, 1925, Engelbart was a graduate of Oregon State College who was drafted late into World War II. He spent two years in the Navy as a radar technician, and later received a Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley.The first computer mouse was publicly unveiled in 1968 by its inventor, Douglas C. Engelbart.

He invented the computer mouse in 1964 ? two decades before it would ship with the first Apple Macintosh. The idea occurred to him when attending a computer graphics conference, and he was brainstorming ways to move an onscreen cursor.

Early mouse hardware could only accommodate up to three buttons, but Engelbart felt that future versions could have up to 10 buttons for greater control options. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously had a very different approach, limiting the Macintosh mouse to just one button for simplicity.

The mouse remained an obscure computing accessory until Apple released the Macintosh 128K in 1984. The mouse that shipped with that mass-market system was actually a slightly updated version of the mouse created for the Apple Lisa ? a less popular personal computer that was released a year earlier.

The first Macintosh Mouse, model M0100, featured a rubber ball for tracking, and connected to the Macintosh through a DE-9 connector. Apple has continued to evolve the mouse over the years, most recently with the multi-touch-capable Magic Mouse, released in late 2009.

While the Magic Mouse is vastly different from the first Macintosh Mouse, it and most other computer mice still adhere to the same concept first invented by Engelbart in 1964. Modern mice have replaced track balls with lasers and now connect wirelessly, usually via Bluetooth, to computers.
post #2 of 19
It made me so sad when I read this earlier today. The Mother of All Demos was so forward-looking. It felt like watching some genius showing the world his ideas all the while knowing they would not understand anyway.
post #3 of 19
Thank You. Godspeed. God Bless. Peace.
post #4 of 19
Will his coffin have 1 or 2 buttons?

Thanks for your contribution!
post #5 of 19

Rest in Peace sir! 

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post #6 of 19
Respect.
post #7 of 19
John Markoff wrote the obit story for the NY Times linked to above. He tells the story more completely in his book, my favorite about the era, What the Dormouse Said.

Englebart was a great visionary, grew up on a farm—no contradiction there. I've noticed that kids who grow up on farms can work on anything, do a lot of thinking about reality, and are grounded in practicality. No strangers to either mechanics or electronics, plus they get along with whatever nature throws at them, including know-nothing city people.

The comments to the Times story are also worth reading. A lot of old-timers add detail, and there is the usual stupid stuff about Jobs ripping off Xerox just to keep you going.
post #8 of 19

First demonstration of computer mouse in '68.

Fully working prototype of Xerox Alto developed in '73.

Apple launches first Mac in '84.

 

I bet, if you trace the history of tablet computing, the velocity of development is similar. 

post #9 of 19
Yahoo had an article today about Engelbart and some others who failed to make much profit from their inventions:

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/mouse-inventor-doug-engelbart-dies--10-inventors-who-failed-to-profit-from-their-ideas-111454584.html

It puts a bit of a different perspective on patent wars. If people and companies don't protect their ideas properly no matter how trivial or irrelevant they seem at the time, someone else will come along and profit from their hard work and the timing is very crucial.

Apple is at least fortunate enough to have been able to profit very soon from the likes of the iPhone and iPad - just a few years after designing them. They made some mistakes with the Mac:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/03/06/apple_thanks_microsoft_for_inventing/

but making that first mistake is all it takes to encourage people to never make it again as is evident with some of those listed in the Yahoo article.
post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


While the Magic Mouse is vastly different from the first Macintosh Mouse, it and most other computer mice still adhere to the same concept first invented by Engelbart in 1964. Modern mice have replaced track balls with lasers and now connect wirelessly, usually via Bluetooth, to computers.
Mouses connecting via Bluetooth are almost soley in apple (and partners) devices only, most mouses wireless (less than half of windows) use infrared via USB port, rarely wifi, but most still use a infrared as said but what do you think is the current market average of people using a trackpad to a mouse? As for I have 3 computers in our house (mouse trackpad compatible) 2 windows(1 desktop:mouse and laptop with trackpad) and 1 MacBook with obvious major trackpad but a rare use of apple wireless mouse so its a little more trackpad without the use of Remote mouse app (http://www.remotemouse.net/) Obvoiusly considered trackpad use higher when included however.
post #11 of 19

Very sad news indeed.

post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Curtis Hannah View Post


Mouses connecting via Bluetooth are almost soley in apple (and partners) devices only, most mouses wireless (less than half of windows) use infrared via USB port, rarely wifi, but most still use a infrared as said but what do you think is the current market average of people using a trackpad to a mouse? As for I have 3 computers in our house (mouse trackpad compatible) 2 windows(1 desktop:mouse and laptop with trackpad) and 1 MacBook with obvious major trackpad but a rare use of apple wireless mouse so its a little more trackpad without the use of Remote mouse app (http://www.remotemouse.net/) Obvoiusly considered trackpad use higher when included however.
 

post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Curtis Hannah View Post


Mouses connecting via Bluetooth are almost soley in apple (and partners) devices only, most mouses wireless (less than half of windows) use infrared via USB port, rarely wifi, but most still use a infrared as said but what do you think is the current market average of people using a trackpad to a mouse? As for I have 3 computers in our house (mouse trackpad compatible) 2 windows(1 desktop:mouse and laptop with trackpad) and 1 MacBook with obvious major trackpad but a rare use of apple wireless mouse so its a little more trackpad without the use of Remote mouse app (http://www.remotemouse.net/) Obvoiusly considered trackpad use higher when included however.

Complete utter rubbish! Translated by a machine, methinks.

post #14 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

Yahoo had an article today about Engelbart and some others who failed to make much profit from their inventions:

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/mouse-inventor-doug-engelbart-dies--10-inventors-who-failed-to-profit-from-their-ideas-111454584.html

It puts a bit of a different perspective on patent wars. If people and companies don't protect their ideas properly no matter how trivial or irrelevant they seem at the time, someone else will come along and profit from their hard work and the timing is very crucial.

Apple is at least fortunate enough to have been able to profit very soon from the likes of the iPhone and iPad - just a few years after designing them. They made some mistakes with the Mac:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/03/06/apple_thanks_microsoft_for_inventing/

but making that first mistake is all it takes to encourage people to never make it again as is evident with some of those listed in the Yahoo article.

 

I don't think anyone here is foolish enough to consider either the iPhone or the iPad as inventions. They are skillful, elegant packaging and implementation of existing technologies. This is Apple's forte. They naturally seek protect these devices from being plagiarised in any way they can, hence the copious seemingly pointless patent applications and lawsuits.

 

Would the first Apple Mac have even gotten off the drawing board in this current litigious environment?

post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

Yahoo had an article today about Engelbart and some others who failed to make much profit from their inventions:

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/mouse-inventor-doug-engelbart-dies--10-inventors-who-failed-to-profit-from-their-ideas-111454584.html

It puts a bit of a different perspective on patent wars. If people and companies don't protect their ideas properly no matter how trivial or irrelevant they seem at the time, someone else will come along and profit from their hard work and the timing is very crucial.

 

It sounds like he lived a rich life none-the-less. 

 

And to think that the mouse was just one small part of a larger demo. Incredible.

post #16 of 19
It really is an insult that he is remembered as "the inventor of the mouse". His and his teams work was much, much more important than just mere pointing device.

They tested several pointing devices in the 60's (including a knee operated one, that actually worked very well), only to settle on the mouse as a practical solution for the time being.

The overwhelming greatness of his work lies in the software they made, the functionality, how well considered it was and not least the synergy and coherence of its different parts.
In most ways conceptually and in a surprising amount of practical instances vastly superior to anything that has been done since.
For a simple example, look at the mother of all demos which ran on a SDS 940. A machine roughly comparable to the Mac 128 from 1984, with up to 16 simultaneous users. The demo shows *instant* reaction to the users input. Something we are left wanting today with 22 turns of Moore's law.
Goes to show that you can have split second reaction any time you want. You just have to see the importance of it, make it a priority and be a good enough programmer.

Just as Newton shouldn't be remembered as the guy who's head was hit by a falling apple, Engelbart should't be remembered as the inventor of the mouse.
post #17 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by andrewb123 View Post

I don't think anyone here is foolish enough to consider either the iPhone or the iPad as inventions. They are skillful, elegant packaging and implementation of existing technologies.

Some people are certainly foolish enough to think that invention doesn't allow for the use of existing components. For example a car is an invention regardless of the separate inventions used to build one. It's understandable that people who prefer to use Android or Blackberry or whatever else have a hard time accepting that Apple invented the particular design of the device they use in much the same way Windows users back in the day had a hard time accepting that most of the design was similarly copied from Apple but had no problem with it being attributable to Xerox. In other words, it's an invention so long as Apple wasn't the inventor. Android fans have no problem suggesting that Palm invented the smartphone but the idea that Apple invented their version of the smartphone just cuts a little too deep. People prefer to acknowledge inventors as long as they aren't in direct competition to whatever product they're using.

Not every unique implementation of a product can be considered an invention so you'd have to assess the level of change from prior implementations to current ones and while some people have conveniently volatile memories when Apple is concerned, we have photography and the internet now and there's no escaping the facts surrounding the change Apple caused. If people take the route of dismissing every unique implementation of a product, eventually they just end up with components that don't in any way resemble the devices they are used in.

Almost nobody is responsible for the entire design of things as complex as computers but if anyone thinks that Android is a direct and inevitable progression from what Palm did then they'd have to explain away the fact it took years for Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile to become competitive to what Apple did. If what Apple did was so trivial and just a repackaging of parts, why did it take so long and why do they look and behave so similar?
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL 
And to think that the mouse was just one small part of a larger demo. Incredible.

Pretty cool demo (love the one-handed keyboard):



Thankfully computers eventually used nicer typography - can't recall who it was that introduced nice typography into personal computers, probably just some company that repackaged things and started the desktop publishing revolution.
post #18 of 19
For clarification,

The DE-9 connector mentioned in the article, should have been listed as a DB-9 connector.

I knew Doug, I had a Xerox Star that I received from a friend at UC Berkeley in the early 9-0's. I tried forever to get it up and running, but it had a password on it and no system software discs or tapes. So I did not want to erase it. I went so far as having a friend at Adobe talk to John Warnock if he remembered what the Wizard Mode password was on the Xerox Star. No Luck. An interesting thing about the mouse that came with the Star is it got Hot!!!

Always wondered if that was normal. Still don't know.


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post #19 of 19

Perhaps one day, someone will re-discover DATAR.

 

Cheers

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