Mouse inventor Doug Engelbart dies at 88

Technology innovator honoured by industry for "genius", "charm"
Engelbart patented the mouse in 1970.
Engelbart patented the mouse in 1970.

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Doug Engelbart, credited with the invention of the computer mouse, has died at the age of 88.

Engelbart described his life's work as the pursuit of "augmenting human intellect" by making computers more accessible to the general public.

He completed work on the mouse in the 1960s and patented it in 1970, as a system composed of a wooden shell covering two metal wheels. Because of the limit on patent life and the late adoption of the concept in commercially manufactured machines, Engelbart had little opportunity to profit from his breakthrough as the bulk of sales occurred after the design passed out of patent in 1987.

The Associated Press quoted Curtis R Carlson, CEO of SRI International as saying Engelbart "brought tremendous value to society".

"We will miss his genius, warmth and charm," said Carlson. "Doug's legacy is immense. Anyone in the world who uses a mouse or enjoys the productive benefits of a personal computer is indebted to him."

Other Engelbart innovations included collaboration with Stanford Research Institute colleagues on the concept of a multiple-windows interface. His own lab, known as the Augmentation Research Centre, helped with the design of government network ARPANet, which formed the foundation for the Internet.

In 1968 Engelbart demonstrated the mouse remotely by use of a modem to a conference hall in San Fransisco. While sitting in his own home, showcasing the mouse, he was simultaneously debuting video-conferencing technology. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd.

Despite the adulation, Engelbart famously credited colleagues for breakthroughs.

"Many of those firsts came right out of the staff's innovations - even had to be explained to me before I could understand them," he said in a biography written by his daughter, Christina. "They deserve more recognition."

In 1997, Engelbart was awarded the widely coveted $500,000 Lemelson-MIT prize, which honours US inventors. In 2000 he received the National Medal of Technology from then US President Bill Clinton.
 

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