Douglas Engelbart - inventor of the computer mouse

Douglas Engelbart - inventor of the computer mouse
Douglas Engelbart - inventor of the computer mouse

A child of the 21st century often gets used to manipulating a computer mouse before he starts talking. But not every adult knows the name of the inventor of this device, who played a major role in establishing contact between humans and computers.

douglas engelbart

Douglas Engelbart was the author of other global inventions of the computer era - a graphical interface, a text editor, hypertext, online conferences, etc. Surprisingly, he did not become a multibillionaire, but earned the gratitude of a multi-million army of users with his work.

Oregon farmer's son

He was born on January 30, 1925 on the family farm of Carl and Gladys Engelbart. The family's pedigree included immigrants from Northern Europe - Germans, Norwegians and Swedes. It is possible that Douglas acquired a penchant for thoroughness and accuracy in work from his ancestors, although he did not have any special abilities when he was a child.

Nevertheless, he successfully graduated from Franklin High School in Portland and entered the University of Oregon in 1942, intending to major in electrical engineering. After studying for two years, he was forcedto take part in the Second World War, which raged far from the American borders. Douglas Carl Engelbart was called to serve as a radio technician at a naval base in the Philippines.

How can we think

Fateful for Douglas was his acquaintance with the article-essay by an American engineer and scientist, one of the pioneers in the development of analog computers Waynivar Bush (1890-1974) called As We May Think, first published in July 1945. One of the variants of the Russian translation of the title of this visionary work sounds poetic - "As soon as we are able to think."

engelbart douglas inventions

Many of the ideas contained in Bush's text sounded half crazy to a young radio operator sitting in a small hut on stilts on a small Pacific island. The huge role of artificial intelligence in creating the future information society, which the author of the article spoke about, Douglas Engelbart considered relevant only for the distant future. But the conviction and energy emanating from Bush's words captured him, and he gradually determined the priorities of his peaceful life.

Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering

After returning from the war, the young sergeant continued his university education. Douglas Engelbart, after graduating with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, received an engineering position at NASA Ames Laboratory, where he worked from 1948 to 1951. This small laboratory was the forerunner of the future aerospace giant NASA.

During these threeFor years, he solidified his intention to devote his career to developing the potential of computers, solving the problems of organizing the information space, which he read about in Vanivar Bush. He remembered how, during his military service, he observed the display of air targets on radar displays. He later took part as an engineer in the CALDIC (California Next Generation Digital Computer) project. Increasing the speed and flexibility of interaction between operators and computers has acquired the status of a priority direction in work for a young engineer.

At Barkley University

Scientific work seemed to him more in line with his aspirations. Douglas receives a master's degree (1952) and then a doctorate (1955) in electrical engineering and is an acting assistant professor at Barkley University in California. Engelbart receives about a half dozen patents for BI - stable plasma digital devices, in which he sees the components of the computers of the future.

He is included in the ongoing work of the university to create a new supercomputer. The ideas that Douglas Engelbart shares with management and colleagues seem too radical and even "wild", and he is forced to do purely technical work on a new device, which, for the time being, was a monster with the intelligence of an insect that eats a huge amount of punched cards.

At Stanford Research Institute

In search of support for his ideas, he leaves the university. In 1957, at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI - Stanford ResearchInstitute), located in the town of Menlo Park on the shores of the San Francisco Bay, a scientific group of 47 people is organized, led by Engelbart Douglas. The inventions made by him over the following years are revolutionary in nature and largely determine the path of development of computer technology.

douglas engelbart biography

Funding of the Engelbart laboratory was carried out by the US military through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). This government structure showed interest in the scientist's report, which was called Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework - "Augmenting Human Intelligence: A Conceptual Framework." It contained a specific research program to improve computer technology.

First mouse

The most productive stage of a scientist's life has begun. Starting with the development of magnetic computer components and miniaturization of computing devices, the laboratory began intensive research within the framework of the NLS (oN-Line System) project proposed by Douglas. It included the development of a new operating system and a fundamentally new digital device management system. Revolutionary innovations became an intermediate result of the work of the laboratory: display of raster images on the monitor screen, a graphical interface developed on this basis, hypertext, tools for collaboration of several users.

Douglas Karl Engelbart

Since September 9, 1968, from the public presentationnew input devices, which was held by Douglas Engelbart, the biography of the computer has changed dramatically. He introduced an "XY-position indicator for the display system", which among scientists has received the informal name mouse - "mouse". This device was a box of polished wood with a thin wire coming out of it, equipped with two metal wheels. When moving on the surface of the table, the revolutions and turns of the wheels were calculated, which affected the position of the cursor on the monitor. Visual control of information input in online mode made a splash.


If Douglas had the goal of enrichment and knew how to profitably sell his inventions, he would become the richest man, like Bill Gates. But he and his family had to endure difficult times when the team that worked along the line of the defense department broke up. The contribution of Douglas Karl Engelbart to the development of the computer era was truly appreciated only in the early 90s of the XX century. He has won numerous awards, received many of the most prestigious titles and awards.

contribution of douglas karl engelbart

He continued to work productively until his death on July 2, 2013, which was followed by many official and informal sincere condolences to the family from all over the world.

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