Farsighted Engelbart Saw That Computers “Would Aid Humans, Not Replace Them”

(p. A15) On Dec. 9, 1968, Doug Engelbart of the Stanford Research Institute presented what’s now known as “The Mother of All Demos.” Using a homemade modem, a video feed from Menlo Park, and a quirky hand-operated device, Engelbart gave a 90-minute demonstration of hypertext, videoconferencing, teleconferencing and a networked operating system. Oh, and graphical user interface, display editing, multiple windows, shared documents, context-sensitive help and a digital library. Mother of all demos is right. That quirky device later became known as the computer mouse. The audience felt as if it had stepped into Oz, watching the world transform from black-and-white to color. But it was no hallucination.
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The coolest thing about this story is that, starting 20 years ago, Doug Engelbart was my next-door neighbor.
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One of Engelbart’s biggest influences was Vannevar Bush’s 1945 essay, “As We May Think,” which envisioned a “memex” machine–a portmanteau of “memory” and “index”–that would enhance human cognition. While I chased my kids’ errant basketballs in his backyard, Doug would tell me about this sort of “human augmentation,” arguing that computer science was developing in ways that would aid humans, not replace them.

For the full commentary, see:
Andy Kessler. “Life as We Know It Turns 50; The 1968 ‘Mother of All Demos’ showed the world a vision for modern computing.” The Wall Street Journal (Monrday, Dec. 3, 2018): A15.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 2, 2018.)

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