A 1968 computer demo that changed people's lives

Can a computer demo change people's lives? I've seen plenty in my time but none that moved me in any significant way.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor
Can a computer demo change people's lives? I've seen plenty in my time but none that moved me in any significant way. Yet 40 years ago, Doug Engelbart gave a demo that did change people's lives and changed the entire course of computer systems development. On Monday and Tuesday, in Silicon Valley, there is a celebration of this "mother of all demos" at the Program for the Future Conference. I first heard about this seminal demo three years ago, when I was at an event at Xerox PARC, it was promotional event for a book by New York Times journalist John Markoff "What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry."

The event featured a lot of early computer pioneers and many of them spoke about how they got inspired to work on computer design and systems development. Each one spoke about seeing a seminal demo by Doug Engelbart and how it changed their lives!

Some hadn't been at the demo but heard about it from others, and it still changed their lives! I was amazed at these stories, amazed that a demo could change people's lives, and amazed at the man behind the stories.

I didn't realize at the time that Doug Engelbart is still alive and was sitting just behind me.

After the event I was invited to a local restaurant where there were a few dozen people celebrating the publication of Mr Markoff's book. I was a little late in arriving and most people were crowded around Mr Markoff's table. Amazingly, the table with Mr Engelbart was half empty. I couldn't believe my luck and soon was sitting right next to him, and had an amazing conversation.

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A tribute to one of Silicon Valley's most influential and forgotten researchers

On Monday and Tuesday there is a celebration of Mr Engelbart's ground breaking "mother of all demos" at the Program for the Future Conference

It will feature:

  • Professor Thomas Malone, Founding Director, MIT Center for Collective Intelligence
  • Professor Hiroshi Ishii, Associate Director, MIT Media Laboratory
  • Peter Norvig, Director of Research, Google
  • Andries van Dam, Professor, Brown University
  • Alan Kay, President, Viewpoints Research Institute
  • Steve Wozniak, co-founder, Apple Computer, Inc.

December 8
- Speakers and Workshops on collective intelligence at The Tech Museum of Innovation,
201 South Market Street, San José (map). In keeping with Engelbart's vision of mass collaboration, this event brings together many communities -- education, business, nonprofit, social, political and technology. The day will end with a special tour, led by Peter Friess, President of The Tech Museum, through Leonardo: 500 Years into the Future, the largest exhibition of da Vinci's engineering, anatomical studies and art ever to visit the United States.

December 9- The morning program at Stanford University's Wallenberg Hall (map) is a Call to Action to organize ourselves to move forward to harness the collective intelligence of our community.

In the afternoon, SRI is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Engelbart's legendary "mother of all demos" at Stanford's Memorial Auditorium (map). We hope you will join us for that event as well.

Here is the demo!

Doug Engelbart: The Demo

- David Nordfors will be moderating a panel at the Stanford University event: The Innovation Journalism Blog: Come Celebrate the 40th anniversary of Engelbart's "Mother of All Demos"

We will be focusing on the big issue of 'collective intelligence'. This is a core issue for Doug Engelbart. He believes that humanity needs to develop its collective intelligence in order to solve the increasingly complex threats against it, such as environmental catastrophes, nuclear wars and pandemics. The combination of information technology and human society can bootstrap the collective IQ we need to encounter these threats.

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Please see:
SVW: Exclusive interview with seminal 1960s computer visionary Doug Engelbart -- he's still here and looking for funding...how the Sixties counterculture smashed the work of leading computer researchers

What if Buckminster Fuller were still alive and looking for funding? I'm still in shock at Silicon Valley's blindness regarding Doug Engelbart

Silicon Valley's Most Innovative Thinker Warns of Big Problems

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