1968 demo includes first public appearance of "mouse"

As non-desktop playback devices (PDAs, smart phones, tablet computers) change how we interact with digital media, now is as good a time as any to reflect on the origins of pardigms that have dominated for the last 20 years.

One important milestone was December 9, 1968. On that day, Doug Engelbart demonstrated an online computer system he’d been working on with 17 other researchers within the Stanford Research Institute’s Augmentation Research Center. To put it in perspective, this was almost a year before the first node of ARPANET (the precursor to the internet) was in place, and 14 years before the introduction of Macintosh (which popularized many of the concepts introduced on that day).

During the demo was the first public appearance of something called a “mouse”. As Doug says during one of the segments:

I don’t why we call it a mouse. Sometimes I apologize, it started that way and we never did change it.

This demonstration was attended by about 1,000 computer professionals. Along with the mouse, attendees saw things like word processing (with cut/copy/paste), list/outline manipulation, hyperlinking, collaboration over a network, a “chord”-based input device, and a lot more.

It’s incredibly interesting and fun to watch what must have seemed almost like science fiction at the time, and to make the connections between the concepts and terminology in the demo and how they apply to our relationship with computers today. It’s sobering and inspirational to realize that today’s experience will appear at least as archiac 25 years from now. | Doug Engelbart 1968 demo