The mouse turns 40!

December 9, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A common accompaniment to the computer keyboard made its debut 40 years ago, but the inventors gave us much more than just a mouse.

Douglas Engelbart and his co-inventor Bill English are the men behind the computer mouse.

"This is it. I built this one, no question about that," said English.

It was 40 years ago Engelbart and his team first introduced their ideas about personal computing to the masses.

"We were nervous," said Engelbart.

There is a video showing off the invention that is often referred to as the mother of all demos. On December 9, 1968 audio and video links connected an audience in San Francisco with SRI headquarters in Menlo Park. The world first saw the mouse in action and virtually every computing concept we use today from interactivity to cut and paste.

"We sort of had this whole complete document, management filing, construction linking, filtering system," said Jeff Rulifson, a software engineer.

Keep in mind, this was at a time when computers were the size of rooms and used mostly for crunching numbers, not helping to organize homes and work.

Engelbart is best known for creating the mouse, but he says what he was really trying to do with his innovations is raise the collective IQ of humanity.

Tuesday hat vision took center stage as SRI International celebrated those at the forefront of modern computing. Engelbart's early dream was that computers would connect people and solutions to make the world a better place. His daughter is now charged with moving that mission forward.

"But the real litmus test is, 'Are we solving the world's problems fast enough?' and the answer is no. We're falling behind the curve," said Christina Englebart.

For the tools he gave us, the audience gave Englebart a standing ovation. He gave us a humble response to all the attention.

"It's just too thrilling for words is all I can say," said Englebart.

The success of this idea speaks for itself. This year Logitech shipped its one billionth mouse.


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