Remembering Doug Engelbart, 30 January 1925 - 2 July 2013
I was very sad to learn that Doug Engelbart passed away at his home on 2 July 2013. Doug had a long life as a visionary engineer, inventor, and pioneer of technology we use every day - and technology where we're just starting to catch up to Doug and his SRI team in 1968. Doug had a quiet, friendly, and unassuming nature combined with deep knowledge, iron will, and a determination to pursue his vision. His vision was to aid humanity in solving complex, difficult and supremely important problems; Doug's goals were noble and selfless. The sense of dealing with an Old Testament prophet - a kindly Moses - is perhaps the greatest loss I and countless others who have met and been inspired by Doug feel today. I've written frequently about Doug in the past, and I'll continue to do so. Here are a few remembrances and resources that seem appropriate. I'll update this list over the next several days. Farewell Doug and my sincere condolences to his family and many friends.
“Someone once called me ‘just a dreamer’. That offended me, the ‘just’ part; being a real dreamer is hard work. It really gets hard when you start believing in your dreams.” — Doug Engelbart, Dreaming of the Future, Byte, September 1995.
Press and public valediction
DOUGLAS C. ENGELBART, 1925-2013 Computer Visionary Who Invented the Mouse John Markoff, New York Times, 3 July 2013. "It was his great insight that progress in science and engineering could be greatly accelerated if researchers, working in small groups, shared computing power. He called the approach “bootstrapping” and believed it would raise what he called their “collective I.Q.”"
In Memoriam: Douglas Engelbart, Maestro of the Mouse and So Much More Harry McCracken, Time, 3 July 2013. "Engelbart was able to see things that most people couldn’t, and make them real. But he was also a passionate believer in what he called Collective IQ — the ability of teams to do things that lone guns cannot.
Computing pioneer and GUI inventor Doug Engelbart dies at 88 Dylan Tweeny, VentureBeat.com, 3 July 2013. "Although Engelbart is often referred to as the inventor of the mouse, that’s a bit like saying Henry Ford was the inventor of the steering wheel. The mouse was a clever invention, but it was merely one component of a larger vision of how computers could increase human intelligence, or what Engelbart called our collective IQ."
Doug Engelbart, visionary Robert X. Cringley, I Cringley, 3 July 2013. "To most people who recognize his name Doug Engelbart was the inventor of the computer mouse but he was much, much more than that. In addition to the mouse and the accompanying chord keyboard, Doug invented computer time sharing, network computing, graphical computing, the graphical user interface and (with apologies to Ted Nelson) hypertext links. And he invented all these things — if by inventing we mean envisioning how they would work and work together to create the computing environments we know today — while driving to work one day in 1950."
Chris Nuzum's fine valediction for Doug: "RIP Doug Engelbart, and thank you. For taking the time to walk a few miles after dinner in 1995 with a young admirer, for your urgent encouragement to do something about my ideas, for your generosity with your time in providing feedback and encouragement, and for the lifetime of work your poured yourself into with boundless enthusiasm and determination. Your inspiration lives on." See photo
Douglas Engelbart's Unfinished Revolution Howard Rheingold, MIT Technology Review 23 July 2013. "To Engelbart, computers, interfaces, and networks were means to a more important end—amplifying human intelligence to help us survive in the world we’ve created. He listed the end results of boosting what he called “collective IQ” in a 1962 paper, Augmenting Human Intellect. They included “more-rapid comprehension … better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble.” If you want to understand where today’s information technologies came from, and where they might go, the paper still makes good reading."
Engelbart's First, Second and Third Order Problems. Jonathan Stray's 4 July 2013 Twitter valediction, a Storify collection with some links expanded. "First order is doing. Second is improving the doing. Third is improving the improving."
If you truly want to understand NLS, you have to forget today. Brett Victor wrote A few words on Doug Engelbart 3 July 2013 in honor of Doug Engelbart life and passing. A few very well chosen words. A Storify collection with a few links expanded and quoted.
"The least important question you can ask about Engelbart is, "What did he build?" By asking that question, you put yourself in a position to admire him, to stand in awe of his achievements, to worship him as a hero.
But worship isn't useful to anyone. Not you, not him. The most important question you can ask about Engelbart is, "What world was he trying to create?" By asking that question, you put yourself in a position to create that world yourself."
Doug Engelbart Resources
DougEngelbart.org: The Doug Engelbart Institute was was conceived by Doug Engelbart to further his lifelong career goal of boosting our ability to better address complex, urgent problems. It contains an excellent history, archive of papers, photos and other published resources as well as links to Doug's current projects.
Douglas Engelbart Interviewed by John Markoff of the New York Times Outracing the Fire: 50 Years and Counting of Technology and Change Computer History Museum oral history interview, March 26, 2002.
Doug Engelbart Video Archive: 1968 Demo - FJCC Conference Presentation Reel Dec 9, 1968 Internet Archive, the so called Mother of All Demos. See also From Pranksters to PCs chapter about Engelbart's 1968 FJCC demo from John Markoff's book What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry, authorized excerpt.
Video Archive MIT / Brown Vannevar Bush Symposium: A Celebration of Vannevar Bush's 1945 Vision, An Examination of What Has Been Accomplished, and What Remains to Be Done. Oct 12-13 1995, MIT. Talks and panel discussion with Doug Engelbart, Ted Nelson, Andy van Dam, Tim Berners-Lee, Alan Kay and others. See also ACM Interactions summary (free access), transcript of day 1 and day 2 panels.
Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework. by Douglas C. Engelbart, October 1962 (SRI AUGMENT, 3906) A work Doug referred to as the bible of his research agenda, it also outlines the motive for his work: enabling groups of people to respond to the increasingly complex and urgent problems of humanity. If you want to read Doug's original works, start here:
By "augmenting human intellect" we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension, the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble. And by "complex situations" we include the professional problems of diplomats, executives, social scientists, life scientists, physical scientists, attorneys, designers--whether the problem situation exists for twenty minutes or twenty years. We do not speak of isolated clever tricks that help in particular situations. We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human "feel for a situation" usefully co-exist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids. 1a1
Man's population and gross product are increasing at a considerable rate, but the complexity of his problems grows still faster, and the urgency with which solutions must be found becomes steadily greater in response to the increased rate of activity and the increasingly global nature of that activity. Augmenting man's intellect, in the sense defined above, would warrant full pursuit by an enlightened society if there could be shown a reasonable approach and some plausible benefits. 1a2
Traction Software Blog posts
Tricycles vs. Training Wheels Jon Udell writes: "Easy-to-use computer systems, as we conventionally understand them, are not what Engelbart had in mind. You might be surprised to learn that he regards today’s one-size-fits-all GUI as a tragic outcome. That paradigm, he said in a talk at Accelerating Change 2004, has crippled our effort to augment human capability." Doug's discussion with Alan Kay at the 50th Anniversary of As We May Think (including links).
Traction Roots - Doug Engelbart Elements of Doug's work that directly inspired Traction TeamPage, what we do, and how we work. A personal remembrance.
Original Traction Product Proposal - Annotated references and appendices on the work of Doug Engelbart and Ted Nelson.
Flip Test 1971 | Email versus Journal Doug Engelbart's Journal versus email - an alternate history.
And here's what Enterprise 2.0 looked like in 1968 | Dealing lightning with both hands… The 1968 Mother of All Demos and John Markoff's What the Dormouse Said
Enterprise 2.0 Schism Doug Engelbart and Peter Drucker are the two patron saints of Enterprise 2.0. And why.
Doug Engelbart | 85th Birthday Jan 30, 2010 Doug Engelbart's mission, goals and accomplishments, including a dialog with Alan Kay at the 50th Anniversary of As We May Think symposium.
Doug Engelbart's copy of As We May Think - with Doug's 1962 notes scribbled in the margins From the Doug Engelbart digital archive (see links). Original donated to the Computer History Museum.
Happy Birthday Doug Engelbart! Video highlights from Doug's talk and panels at the 50th Anniversary of As We May Think symposium, Oct 1995. Videos of Doug's talks including his famous Dec 1968 Mother of All Demos are now part of the Doug Engelbart Digital Archive maintained and managed by The Internet Archive