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There Goes The Pointer Guy

Douglas Engelbart (Photo credit: nilsohman)

Sad to report the death of an ├╝bergeek.

Douglas Engelbart, who has just passed away at the age of 88, is referred to more often than not as the inventor of the mouse. It would be an injustice though if he was remembered only as the creator of a device now already beginning to seem dated.

The point was not the device itself but its purpose: To select and activate visual representations on a screen. Not just icons and menu items, in the fashion later made famous by Steve Jobs, but also links between texts – a vision he was promoting two decades before Tim Berners-Lee make the Web a practical reality. Despite living in the age of punchcards and paper tape, Engelbart foresaw a whole new way for humans to use computers.

This though was merely part of a wider vision, of a world where human intelligence would be augmented by machines. We have not achieved noticeably greater intelligence yet, it must be admitted, but it would take effort not to see today’s instant access to information as a big step in that direction. We are living in a world that Engelbart helped create.

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