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Doug Engelbart, inventor of computer mouse, dies at age 88

Doug Engelbart also developed early versions of email and the Internet.

Doug Engelbart also developed early versions of email and the Internet.

SAN FRANCISCO — Doug Engelbart, the inventor of the computer mouse and developer of early incarnations of email, word-processing programs and the Internet, has died at age 88.

The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., where Mr. Engelbart had been a fellow since 2005, said Wednesday that it was notified of his death in an email from his daughter, Christina. The cause of death wasn't immediately known.

In the 1950s and '60s, when mainframes took up entire rooms and were fed data on punch cards, Mr. Engelbart already was envisioning a world where people used computers to share ideas about solving problems.

One of the biggest advances was the mouse, which he developed in the 1960s and patented in 1970. At the time, it was a wooden shell covering two metal wheels: an "X-Y position indicator for a display system."

The notion of operating the inside of a computer with a tool on the outside was way ahead of its time. The mouse wasn't commercially available until 1984, with Apple's new Macintosh.

Among Mr. Engelbart's other key developments in computing, along with his colleagues at the Stanford Research Institute and his own lab, the Augmentation Research Center, was the use of multiple windows. Engelbart's lab also helped develop ARPANet, the government research network that led to the Internet.

Mr. Engelbart dazzled the industry at a San Francisco computer conference in 1968. Working from his house with a homemade modem, he used his lab's elaborate new online system to illustrate his ideas to the audience, while his staff linked in from the lab. It was the first public demonstration of the mouse and video teleconferencing, and it prompted a standing ovation.

In 1997, Mr. Engelbart won the most lucrative award for American inventors, the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. Three years later, President Bill Clinton bestowed Mr. Engelbart with the National Medal of Technology "for creating the foundations of personal computing."

Mr. Engelbart was born Jan. 30, 1925, in Portland, Ore. He studied electrical engineering at Oregon State University. After World War II, he worked as an electrical engineer for NASA's predecessor, NACA. Restless, and dreaming of computers that could change the world, he left to pursue his Ph.D. at the University of California in Berkeley. He earned his degree in 1955 and joined the faculty, then left for the research position at the Stanford Research Institute.

Doug Engelbart, inventor of computer mouse, dies at age 88 07/03/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 11:45pm]
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