Doug Engelbart who was probably the first man to understand the true potential and purpose of the digital computer died on July 2nd, 2013 at the age of 88. As well as inventing the mouse he came up with many other key ideas in human computer interaction.
Douglas Engelbart (January 30, 1925 - July 2nd, 2013)
and his prototype mouse
If you were a computer user at any time in the last 30 years you would have discovered for yourself how much easier it was to use a mouse for pointing or drawing on the computer screen or perform tasks like selecting text or areas of a spreadsheet. The device may be obvious once you've seen or used it, but it was revolutionary when first conceived. So it is remarkable to think that Doug Engelbart come up with its basic design in the 1960s when computers were mainframes that filled purpose-built rooms and were the preserve of universities and government departments.
It was so much ahead of its time that when it did become a mass market device the 17-year patent taken out on the invention in 1970 was on the point of expiry, meaning that its inventor missed out on any further royalties and the technology passed into the public domain.
The mouse was just part of Engelbart's vision of human-computer interaction. Along with his colleagues at the Stanford Research Institute and his own lab, the Augmentation Research Center, he pioneered the use of multiple windows, 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.
He was also responsible for the first demonstration of video teleconferencing in 1968, in a 90-minute session to a computer conference in San Francisco attended by about 1,000 computer professionals. His "Mother of All Demos", which included the public debut of the mouse, used a homemade modem. The segment of the video in which the mouse is introduced starts at 30:50:
Forty years later Doug Engelbart recorded another video recalling the initial idea for the pointing device and how it came to be called a mouse:
News of Doug Engelbart's death from kidney failure came from the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, where he had been a fellow since 2005. He was also a holder of the National Medal of Technology (2000) and the ACM Turing Award (1997) and had won the Lemelson-MIT prize, the most lucrative award for American inventors, in 1997. To know more about his life and visionary ideas see our history article, Douglas Engelbart.