Douglas Engelbart Creator Of The Mouse

Douglas Engelbart

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Who he is

Douglas Engelbart is an American engineer and innovator who is best known for being the creator of the computer mouse. He developed the mouse in the 1960s, but it was not used until the 1980. He is a man dedicated to making the world a better place through technology.

Early life & Education

Douglas was born in 1925 and grew up on a small farm in Oregon. He studied Electrical Engineering at Oregon State University, but couldn't finish right away due to World War II. He joined the Navy, where he spent 2 years in the Philipines as a radar technician.
After the war, he went back to Oregon State and earned his degree in Electrical Engineering in 1948. After graduating, he worked at NACA Ames Lab.

After working for awhile at the NACA Ames Lab, Douglas started to get anxious. He wanted to do things that would change the world. Before the World Wide Web was created, Douglas already was bouncing around ideas of an "information space where they could formulate ideas with incredible speed and flexibility."
He decided that continuing the daily routines at work would not help him change the world, so he enrolled in graduate school at UC Berkley. He recieved his Ph.D in 1955.
After recieving his Ph.D, he stayed at UC Berkley for a little while as an Assistant Professor. He realized that he was still not fufilling his dreams of advancing computer technology and changing the world. So he left Berkley and got a job as at Standford Research Institute doing research. At SRI, he wrote a paper called Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework. In this paper he wrote all of the ideas that have been pushing Douglas forward and guiding his work.

By 1963, Douglas had his own research lab, which he called the Augmentation Research Center.

Career & Accomplishments

A workstation at the Augmentation Research Center.
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At the Augmentation Research Center, Douglas and his team developed computer interface elements such as: bit-mapped screens, the first computer mouse, hypertext and precursors to the GUI (graphical user interface).

During the 1960s at the Augmentation Research Center, Doug was an integral part of the development of an elaborate hypermedia called NLS. NLS allowed digital libraries to be created and electronic documents to be stored and retrieved through hypertext. This was the first time hypertext was implemented successfully. NLS also allowed emailing and had many word processing options. It also provided on-screen video teleconferencing.

From 1977 to 1989 Douglas worked as a Senior Scientist at Tymshare Inc., located in Cupertino, CA. He also worked closely with the Aerospace Components on the issues of integrated information-system architechtures and associated evolutionary strategies. He retired in 1986 and teamed up with his daughter, Christina Engelbart. In 1988 Douglas founded the Bootstap Institute, located in Menlo Park, CA. By the early 1990s, many seminar graduates of Stanford were interested in lauching a collaborative implementation of Douglas' work. The Bootstap Alliance was then formed as a non-profit homebase for the effort. In the mid 1990s they were awared were DARPA funding to develop a modern user interface to Augment, called Visual AugTerm.

Douglas has over 45 patents. He is also the holder of over forty awards and honors, including: the National Medal of Technology, the Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, the Lemelson-MIT Prize, the IEEE John Von Neumann Medal Award, the ACM Turing Award and the American Ingenuity Award.

In 1998 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

His Most Famous Invention

Douglas and the first computer mouse.
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Douglas came up with the basic idea of a computer mouse while he was sitting in a conference session in 1961. One idea that he had was to use small wheels, one turning horizontally, one turning vertically, and each wheel would transmit its rotation coordinates for analysis. Later, when he and his team were working on interactive display technology in the SRI lab, they were looking at different pointing devices to move a cursor on the screen. Douglas reviewed his notes from earlier with Bill English (his lead engineer). They decided to put the idea into action, and tested the mouse against several other pointing devices. The mouse had won hands down. The first mouse had only one button, but they very quickly had the idea a selection of buttons for the left hand to enter commands while the right hand was busy pointing and clicking. The left hand device evolved into a telegraph-style five key "keyset". Douglas was issued a patent for the mouse in 1970.


Currently, Douglas is the director of his company, Bootstrap Institute, which is located in Fremont, California. Here he has recently been promoting the idea of Collective IQ.


  • "The Mother of All Demos" This is Douglas' presentation in 1968 on NLS. He was clearly ahead of his time, using ideas that people never thought would be possible.
  • Books by Douglas A site that lists Douglas' books and books that feature Douglas.
  • More books, videos, papers, articles, info etc. can be found here:
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