Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the computer mouse, dies at 88

Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the mouse, passed away this past Tuesday night at his home in California.

Douglas Engelbart, aged 88, passed away this past Tuesday night at his home in California.

While the Engelbart name may not be in the mainstream vernacular, his invention fundamentally changed the way we use and interact with computers.

You see, Douglas Engelbart invented the computer mouse.

It's very rare that someone is able to make a contribution in the field of technology that is not only revolutionary but tangible. The invention of the computer mouse certainly falls within that category.

Engelbart's first mouse prototype, which can be seen below, is a far cry from the slick optical and multi-touch mice of today, but Engelbart's work got the ball rolling and set the stage for the release of the original Macintosh which for the first time made the mouse a household device.

Much of Engelbart's work was done while working at the Augmentation Research Center Lab in SRI International. SRI stands for Stanford Research Institute, and if that sounds familiar it's because it's the same organization which launched a spin off company called Siri that you may have heard of.

Engelbart's first applied for a patent for his mouse invention in 1967 wherein it was described as an "x-y position indicator." 

The patent reads in part:

An X-Y position indicator control for movement by the hand over any surface to move a cursor over the display on a cathode ray tube, the indicator control generating signals indicating its position to cause a cursor to be displayed on the tube at the corresponding position.

The patent was granted three years later. Many years later, SRI International would license the patent to Apple.

CNN adds:

In addition to the computer mouse, Engelbart's work at SRI from 1957 to 1977 helped develop tech innovations such as display editing, online processing, linking and in-file object addressing, use of multiple windows, hypermedia, and context-sensitive help, the institute said.

As for why the device was called a mouse, Engelbart in some interviews has indicated that he can't remember the origins of the name. Other times, however, Engelbart has relayed that it was simply because the device, with its long cord, often resembled a rodent.

Engelbart holds a Ph.D in engineering from the University of California-Berkeley.

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