Re: Doug Engelbart

Douglas Otis <> Wed, 03 July 2013 23:27 UTC

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Subject: Re: Doug Engelbart
From: Douglas Otis <>
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Date: Wed, 03 Jul 2013 16:27:46 -0700
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To: Bob Braden <>
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On Jul 3, 2013, at 12:10 PM, Bob Braden <> wrote:

> Wikipedia defines "genius" as "a person who displays exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality"
> All three applied to Doug Engelbart. He belongs up there with other creative  geniuses I have had the privilege of meeting during 50 years in computing -- Al Perlis,   Dick Hamming, John McCarthy,and Don Knuth come immediately to mind.

Dear Bob,

Here is a video of Doug Engelbar's 1968 demo of SRI's work.

In the early seventies, most work used mini computers where faults were diagnosed using the front key panel and bit light displays.  I even had the misfortune of debugging early production of MITS Altar systems that were flakey by connecting front panel LEDs directly to the data bus. As a consultant in 1985, I worked at Xerox Parc on the Xerox Star 6085 adding a cartridge tape drive.   They relied on the tape drive to distribute OS updates in a timely fashion because their 10 Mbit Ethernet offered less than 3 Mbit throughput across dozens of test systems.  By then, they were using Bill English's mouse design.  Being relatively sheltered in the lab, this was my first encounter with a GUI interface.  I needed to access my test programs but was dumbfounded by a display that did nothing when you typed on the keyboard.  The secret was to drag the arrow icon over the terminal icon and click.  This finally provided access to a terminal display that responded to the keyboard.

Until then, my editing made use of multiple screens navigated with the use of key combinations.  To this day, I don't think GUI really offered improved productivity.  It was sexy and you did not need to remember all those damn key sequences.  The systems at Xerox Parc made use of the SRI developments which then spawned Windows and Macs introducing personal computers to the masses.  Keeping the masses safe has been an ongoing struggle requiring creative genius often evidenced in algorithms rather than hardware.  The evolution of computers has been awe inspiring, and Steve Jobs proved genius makes a difference in hardware as well.   As Isaac Newton said "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Douglas Otis