BW Online | September 6, 2004 | Douglas C. Engelbart: From Mice To Windows "It's hard, but try to imagine -- or remember -- a world without the Internet, without e-mail, without Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT ) Windows operating system, without pull-down menus in computer programs, and even without the computer mouse. Then, in one fell swoop, one person unveils the underpinnings of them all.
That's what happened in 1968, when Douglas C. Engelbart took the stage at the mid-December Fall Joint Computing Conference in San Francisco. He was nervous, fretting the audience might dismiss his concepts for augmenting human intelligence as too far-out. But he needn't have worried. Over the next 90 minutes he demonstrated how he could edit a document interactively with researchers in a distant location -- his laboratory at Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) in Menlo Park, Calif. -- pointing and clicking a boxy mouse to switch among windows on a computer screen. The audience surprised him with a standing ovation. The event is now considered a watershed in the history of computing.
Yet Engelbart says his inventions have been slow to deliver the impact he wanted. Drawing on his experience watching radar images as a technician in the Navy during World War II, he had envisioned window graphics that would make computers easy to use. Then individuals, companies, and governments could tackle major issues collectively. Gradually this would enhance the way people think and learn. Today we have online teamwork and so-called learning organizations. But society has yet to exploit computers to boost human intelligence on the scale that Engelbart has been dreaming about since the 1950s."