Obituary: Doug Engelbart, Inventor of the computer mouse

Posted by admin on Aug 18, 2013

Doug Engelbart, best known for having invented the computer mouse in 1968, but whom was also one of the pioneers of the computing industry, sadly passed away on July 2 at the age of 88 from kidney failure.

While working at a government aerospace laboratory in California in the 1950s, Engelbart had ideas swirling in his mind about collaborative and interactive computer work where scientists could easily share information among them. He eventually demonstrated his many inventions once he established an experimental research group at Stanford Research Institute, which eventually came to be known simply as SRI International. Among them was the rodent-like device called a mouse (though back then, it hardly resembled a mouse as it does today) that was used to navigate a computer’s screen, and control tasks. Reportedly, the idea for the mouse came to Engelbart during a computer graphics conference in 1964. The device, however, didn’t make its way to become a mainstream computer accessory until some time in the 1980s.

Why it was given the moniker “mouse” is up for debate. Hardware designer Roger Bates has been quoted as saying it was coined by Dr. William English, as collaborator and mechanical engineer who received Engelbart’s sketch of the device. Supposedly, the mouse was a natural extension to the name used at the time to describe the cursor: CAT.

Engelbart’s influence on the computing industry extended far further than the invention of the mouse. In 1969, his Augment NLS system application helped lead to the internet as we know it today. Oregon State University, from which Engelbart graduated, credited him in 1997 with 20 lifetime patents at the time, and helping to “pave the way for electronic mail, computer ‘windows’, computer networking and the internet.”

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