Inventor of the Mouse Doug Engelbart Passes Away at Age 88
The father of the computer mouse passes away at 88.
The Computer History Museum reports that U.S. inventor Doug Engelbart died Wednesday morning at the age of 88. The Mountain View, Calif.-based museum, where Engelbart resided since 2005, received the notification of his death in an email from his daughter Christina Engelbart, Director of the Doug Engelbart Institute. She did not specify a cause of death, but Engelbart's wife later told the New York Times that he passed away in his home in Atherton, Calif. due to kidney failure.
Engelbart was best known as the inventor of the computer mouse. He developed the device back in 1963 in his Augmentation Research Center Lab at Stanford Research Institute (SRI) International, and was awarded a patent in 1970. Back then it was merely a wooden shell covering two wheels, but it did the trick: it allowed users to operate the inside of a computer with a tool on the outside. The mouse didn't become commercially available until 1984 when it was added to Apple's new Macintosh.
"The basic idea for the mouse first came to him in 1961 while sitting in a conference session on computer graphics, his mind mulling over the challenge of making interactive computing more efficient," reads his Collective IQ blog which is maintained by his daughter. "It occurred to him that, using a pair of small wheels traversing a tabletop, one wheel turning horizontally, one turning vertically, the computer could track their combined rotations and move the cursor on the display accordingly."
Collective IQ is also the name of an idea he described as "a measure of how effective people are at addressing complex, urgent challenges collectively."
While working at SRI, Engelbart also played a part in the development of ARPANET, the first network to implement TCP/IP that helped set the framework for the Internet. He was a part of a group recruited by Bob Taylor after $18 million (aka $100 million today) was budgeted for the project's deployment across four Interface Message Processors, or IMPs. He also created the NLS system, a very important early hypertext system, and created precursors to graphical user interfaces.
On Wednesday the museum said that Engelbart had a lifelong commitment to "solving humanity's urgent problems by using computers as tools to improve communication and collaboration between people."
The New York Times has a huge write-up detailing Engelbart's achievements throughout the decades, which can be read here.