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US Report: The mouse turns 30

Doug Engelbart -- the visionary who brought us the first computer mouse, display editing and even multiple windows -- was honoured at Stanford University with a day-long symposium Wednesday.
Written by Steve Kovsky, Contributor on

Attended by many of the best and brightest in both academia and the technology business, the event commemorates what may be the mother of all demos: It took place 30 years ago today, when Engelbart -- then a Stanford researcher -- introduced the world to the mouse.

In 1968, Engelbart was paid $10,000 (£6,000) by his then-employer, Stanford Research Institute, for the first mouse -- a block of wood with a tail-like cord and an X-Y grid underneath. Now, with more than 350 million mice in use today -- the concept caught on better than Engelbart or his colleagues ever dreamed. But it's also been a big disappointment to them.

Engelbart made it plain Wednesday that he considers the mouse but a small part of his research team's larger goal: To revolutionise the computing experience and create a connected community that could work collectively to solve society's problems.

Many of Engelbart's admirers who were on hand for the event argued that the inventor succeeded more than he realises, by steering technological development along a more socially conscious course. "When I was young, Doug Engelbart was incredibly important to me," said Jaron Lanier, the inventor of virtual reality, now lead scientist for the Tele-Immersion Initiative, a research coalition studying advanced applications for Internet 2. "In my mind, Doug has charted a path of humanistic computing where we can still stay people, and understand how we can develop these technologies and still know who we are."

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