Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the computer mouse, has died

The computer scientist demonstrated many of the concepts of modern personal computing in 1968

Douglas Engelbart and the computer mouse he invented.

Douglas Engelbart and the computer mouse he invented.

Douglas Engelbart, a Silicon Valley engineer who invented the computer mouse and is credited with many of the concepts that underpin modern computing and the Internet, died on Tuesday at his home in Atherton, California. He was 88.

Born in 1925, Engelbart was coming of age as World War II raged in Europe. He joined the U.S. Navy as an electronic and radar technician, and after the war studied electrical engineering at Oregon State University. He went on to complete a master's degree and Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley, where he was also an assistant professor.

About a year later, in 1957, he joined the Stanford Research Institute (today called SRI International), which was just over a decade old. From 1959 until 1977 he led the organization's Augmentation Research Center, and in 1963 came up with the concept of the computer mouse.

The mouse would go on to revolutionize personal computing, but the public didn't get their first look at it until several years later.

In a presentation at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco on Dec. 9, 1968, he introduced the concepts of hypertext linking, real-time text editing, the use of multiple windows, and teleconferencing. He also showed a set of three devices that worked together to control a computer.

"We have a pointing device called a mouse, a standard keyboard and a special key set," he told the audience. The demonstration can be seen in archive footage on YouTube.

In a world of mainframe computers controlled by keyboards, the mouse was a new idea.

"I don't know why we call it a mouse. Sometimes I apologize. It started that way and we never did change it," he said, explaining the name to his audience.

A year later, the Augmentation Research Center underscored its importance in computing by becoming the second node of the ARPANET, the predecessor to today's Internet.

"Doug was a giant who made the world a much better place and who deeply touched those of us who knew him," Curtis Carlson, president and CEO of SRI, said in a statement. "SRI was very privileged and honored to have him as one of our 'family.' He brought tremendous value to society. We will miss his genius, warmth and charm. Doug's legacy is immense -- anyone in the world who uses a mouse or enjoys the productive benefits of a personal computer is indebted to him."

Engelbart received numerous awards for this work through the latter years of his life. They included the National Medal of Technology in 2000, the Lemelson-MIT Prize in 1997 and the Turing Award, also in 1997.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags business issuespersonnelperipheralsInput devicesSRI InternationalDouglas Engelbart

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Cygnett 2500 ChargeUp Pocket Lightning Portable Power Bank

Learn more >

Mobile

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?