When we think of the people behind computing and the Internet, certain names spring to mind. Douglas Engelbart likely wouldn’t be one of them, but should be.
In 1963, Mr Engelbart was working as a computer scientist at the Stanford Research Institute and developed a wooden block with two rolling discs called an “X-Y position indicator for a display system”; what became known as the mouse. That first mouse was developed with the assistance of Bill English; the inventor of the track-ball.
Things have certainly come a long way since that first clunky mouse. Actually, it was just a few weeks prior to Mr. Engelbart demonstrating his mouse in 1968 that German company Telefunken’s mouse design was published – and instead of discs on the underside, that had a ball.
Such was the nature of computing at the time that the mouse really didn’t make a commercial appeaance until 1984, when it accompanied the Macintosh 128K.
The price of a mouse has certainly dropped too. I remember even as recently as 1996 paying $70 for a mouse that would cost a few dollars today. I still remember the first wireless mice that conflicted terribly with other computer hardware and had horrible battery life; to the point I swore I’d never own one. That of course changed.
When I read stories like that of Mr. Engelbart, it reminds me there are so many people we owe a debt of gratitude to for their work in technology that has evolved into the Internet and associated devices of today; people who are often forgotten.
Some of these people have not only been skipped over in terms of recognition, sometimes they haven’t been satisfactorily financially compensated for their toil.
While Mr. Engelbart did achieve a degree of fame and some awards, he didn’t see a cent in royalties for his invention.
Mr Engelbart died peacefully in his sleep yesterday, aged 88.