Doug Engelbart in his Prime

On America's birthday, noting a man who exemplified what we'd like to think of as our national traits.


As you've heard, the tech-industry visionary Douglas Engelbart has died, at age 88. I met him only a few times and have no special standing to comment on his passing. But on the eve of our nation's birthday, I wanted to be sure our site noted the work and achievements of a person who exemplified what we'd like to think of as our national traits and temperament.

This site, maintained by Stanford, has clips and background of Engelbart in computing's infant age -- including a carefully annotated version of his famous "Mother of All Demos," 45 years ago, source of the photo above. In it, amid machines that look laughably crude by modern standards, he laid out with surprising foresight many aspects of the evolving human/machine interaction as we know it today.

In the NYT, John Markoff has a nice appreciation of Engelbart; it includes a mention of the seminal role a famous Atlantic article played in Engelbart's thinking. Harry McCracken has another good piece in Time. Two years ago during a guest-blogging stint here Mark Bernstein, of Eastgate software, put Engelbart's influence in context. He was a man who made a difference, and was both respected and liked.