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Doug Engelbart Passes Away 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the rest-in-peace dept.
lpress writes "If you use a mouse, hyperlinks, video conferencing, WYSIWYG word processor, multi-window user interface, shared documents, shared database, documents with images & text, keyword search, instant messaging, synchronous collaboration, or asynchronous collaboration, you can thank Doug Engelbart, who passed away today."
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Doug Engelbart Passes Away

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  • by Tim12s (209786) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @03:27PM (#44180635) Homepage

    Guess he got first post

  • RIP, good sir. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Deathspawner (1037894) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @03:28PM (#44180647) Homepage
    Thanks for all of your contributions to our computing.
  • by mandark1967 (630856) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @03:29PM (#44180667) Homepage Journal

    I use Microsoft.

    • Where are the Apple fans telling us that Apple or Steve Jobs actually invented the mouse and the internet?
  • by tearmeapart (674637) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @03:36PM (#44180739) Homepage Journal

    I believe this is something that should be mandatory for all computer engineering/science students should watch, along with getting a bit of a history lesson: [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

    The concepts for the time, in my opinion, are mind blowing. I hope there are some people in this world who are considering some equal mind blowing ideas for these times, although I do not think they could ever get pulled together into one demo like what Doug Engelbart did.

  • Riding Bikes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @03:37PM (#44180749)

    I got to see Doug speak about ten years ago. One thing he mentioned is that you can't let ease of use concerns limit capability. Ease of use is important but it can be sacrificed if necessary to give advanced capability. The example he gave was a bicycle. It's much more difficult to use than a tricycle but the benefits of bikes over trikes are so great that almost everyone goes through the effort to learn to use a bike instead of settling for a trike.

    • by jandrese (485)
      You hear that, Gnome team? It's an important lesson. Don't think I'm letting you off either, Ubuntu.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The Gnome team agreed to stick with tricycles since removing one wheel would confuse users. This was just before convening a two week conference to deliberate over the color of the handlebar streamers.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, but riding bikes is too complex for most people to have an opinion about. Let's talk about where to store them instead.

    • Re:Riding Bikes (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @05:02PM (#44181813)

      The example he gave was a bicycle.

      Another example is the Palm vs the Newton. The Newton tried to learn to recognize the user's handwriting. The Palm trained the user to produce handwriting that it could recognize. The Palm required more up-front effort to use, but once you were past that initial learning phase, it was actually very usable. The Newton failed, while the Palm succeeded.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        There were several reasons the Newton didn't take off; the handwriting was just one small part of it and one that was fixable.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @03:54PM (#44180939)

    In addition to the specific technical inventions, he did a lot of great work from the 1960s laying out how computers could augment human intellect. Most of his papers are available online [], not only open-access but in readable HTML versions.

  • by Eternal Vigilance (573501) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @03:56PM (#44180973)

    You not only changed our world for the better, you were a good human being. Even with all your success you always remained thoughtful, generous, and kind. That touched my life even more than all the technological innovation. How you were with people was even more important than what you did for them.

    Thanks for everything, and most of all thanks for being such a role model for me, Doug.

    I'll miss you.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:09PM (#44181135) Homepage
    for those unsure of how to mourn, Here are a few tips.
    Awesomewm users: remove dust from mouse (small black/beige peripheral.) place hand atop it for a moment of rememberence...both for doug and in trying to recall what people use this thing for
    outlook users: Although its often said not to, today you may in fact click that link in your HTML email for "1000% DIS.CPUNT VJAGRA CIA.LIS"
    Chatroulette users: Adjust the camera from its standard crotch-facing position to a more respectful head-facing position.
    Microsoft Word users: Today, indulge clippy in his helpful banter and accept his offer of assistance in writing a letter. Embrace the ensuing application crash as proof that the spirit of Doug lives on.
    VAX users: Get back to work installing VMS 5.0. Forget you ever heard of 'windowed' interfaces. also those TPS reports, we need them by lets plan for saturday.
    Excel users: As you stalk from cubicle to cubicle hunting for the rat-bastard who left the spreadsheet open this evening, ponder Dougs wisdom of shared documents and its profound impact on your ability to hunt down pudgy white coworkers, like some kind of middle aged predator.
    Oracle users: Send a support ticket. Approach your multi million dollar obelisk of remorse and sorrow. slowly push unmarked $100 bills into the ventillation slots. Weep in knowing this is not what Doug intended.
    PDF users: chances are youre holding a document that is nothing but an image with search for you, so you may as well ponder Dougs infinite wisdom as you mash away at the spacebar in time to lady gagas judas.
    YouTube users: "Doug Engelbart Harlem Shake Americas Got Talent" is certainly a mournful keyword search.
    Management: each time you bored us with tales of (a)synchronous collaboration, know that it was pushing this great man one step closer to the grave. If you'd stuck to the 1 hour meeting rule and not called it on a friday, this man may still be alive today.
    • by Quila (201335)

      chances are youre holding a document that is nothing but an image with search for you

      Hate to ruin a good joke, but it's rather easy to run that image-text PDF through OCR, which will invisibly overlay the OCR text over the image for searching and selection within the PDF.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Hate to ruin a good joke, but it's rather easy to run that image-text PDF through OCR, which will invisibly overlay a bad approximation of the OCR text over the image for searching and selection within the PDF. If it's at typical image-instead-of-text resolutions, that is.

  • "you can thank Doug Engelbart, who passed away today"

    Then, no. No, we can't.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      Now you see why nobody hires nerds to write eulogies.

    • "you can thank Doug Engelbart, who passed away today"

      Then, no. No, we can't.

      The sad part is that frankly, before this news item, I could not have told who is "Doug Engelbart". The media does not talk about the real engineers.

  • Those three rarely come together.

    RIP, Doug, and thanks for all the clicks!

  • a live debt (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kermidge (2221646) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:37PM (#44181511) Journal

    I'd never heard of Doug Engelbart when I unboxed my first Atari ST in June of '89. In that first year I'd learned of him, SRI, Xerox PARC, DRI, et al. From then on, from time to time, it would strike me out of the blue, often in the wee hours, just what a tremendous debt I owed Doug and the others for what could so easily be taken for granted. It is dangerous, I think, to become so blasé that we forget that it wasn't some 'force of history' or whatnot that has provided us so much; even if that were entirely true, it's still down to the particular people who actually had the ideas, devised the techniques, and built the devices.

    And, if you'll trouble to read them, Doug's thoughts on the what and how and why have continual relevance. Even these days, in the midst of my 'desktop as appliance' and laptop as 'a convenience' daily whatever, some little thing will hit me and I have to stop a bit and say, "Wow."

    Thank you, Doug.

  • "If you use a mouse, hyperlinks, video conferencing, WYSIWYG word processor, multi-window user interface, shared documents, shared database, documents with images & text, keyword search, instant messaging, synchronous collaboration, or asynchronous collaboration, you can thank Doug Engelbart, who passed away today."

    Um, I don't mean to be insensitive, but it's a bit late to be thanking him for anything, isn't it?

  • Chord Keyboard (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skidisk (994551) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:46PM (#44181623)

    I met Doug and spoke with him a few times when we were both at Tymnet, which was purchased by McDonnell Douglas in 1985. At the time, Doug had a shock or white hair but was still cranking out ideas. At that time, he was working very hard to sell his idea of a chord keyboard -- you had five keys for each hand and you "played" them to control the computer. Doug was amazing with them -- he code program and write documents extraordinarily fast with them. He thought that DEC might buy the idea and turn it into a product, but obviously that didn't happen. Doug was always thinking a generation ahead -- recall that at that time, we had not really accepted the mouse yet. But from Doug's perspective that was old news from almost twenty years ago. Talking to him was amazing -- just trying to get into the frame of mind he was in was challenging and fun. I wish I could have spent more time with him. Thanks for everything, Doug -- we still haven't caught up with you.

    • I visited him in the late '80s, along with a number of others of the hypertext startup I came out to CA to work for. It was sort of a pilgrimage to see the great man.

      One of our people took the mouse from his computer and got Doug to autograph it. This left him with the ONLY mouse (at the time) autographed by Doug, because (as Doug mentioned) nobody had thought to ask him before. B-)

  • by Burz (138833) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @04:47PM (#44181647) Journal

    to list the passing of the inventor of the modern UI as a single-line footnote.

    • by Dynamoo (527749)
      Those were my thoughts exactly. I seem to remember a similar lack of fuss when Dennis Ritchie passed away a couple of years ago. But his contributions to the field will certainly live on..
    • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @06:00PM (#44182537) Homepage

      Yes, it is amazing how quickly the next generation or two can forget (or never learn) history. It is a constant struggle to keep the best of the past alive in our collective memories. And I say that not just as a trustee of a historical society. How many people who read slashdot have read "As We May Think" about a hypothetical "Memex" by Vannevar Bush that helped inspire Doug Engelbart's work, or "The Skills Of Xanadu" that helped inspire Ted Nelson's own work on hypertext that contributed to the World Wide Web among other things including research in nanotechnology? One of the things Doug made possible was potentially improving our collective memory, but it is hard to avoid getting weighed down in trivia.

      I participated in Doug's Unfinished Revolution II colloquium (Unrev-II) run as ten sessions through Stanford and then the mailing list continued related discussions for a couple more years. [] [] []

      It was one of the best on-line experiences I've had overall.

      I feel Doug's story shows why our conventional means of funding computer research via companies and grants and such are flawed. Here is the inventor of the mouse and a variety of amazing things, a very nice guy personally, and he had lots of difficulty getting funding in later years to continue innovative work. If he couldn't funding to do work on computers to make the world a better place, better able to deal with pressing problems, than who can? So, that suggests a need for a basic income, a gift economy, or some other economic approach, so individuals who want to do such work will have the time to do it, regardless of a previous track record.

      A few of my many posts to those email lists, covering predicting the OLPC, talking about the singularity and S-curve limitations, asking about the moral basis of our innovations, and linking poetry and knowledge management: [] [] [] [] []

      Anyway, it's a sad day. But I'm glad he got his chance to work on really cool stuff in hopes of helping humanity.

  • Damn (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DiSKiLLeR (17651) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @06:13PM (#44182723) Homepage Journal

    Damn. This guy did way more than Steve Jobs ever hoped to. :(

    • Damn. This guy did way more than Steve Jobs ever hoped to. :(

      They were both influential. Steve did a huge amount of important stuff in marketing and leading a company. Doug in engineering.

  • by wine (211387) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @08:57PM (#44184319)

    I have been visiting slashdot almost from the day it started. In the early days I learned a lot by reading posts and following discussions on technical subjects by people with superior knowledge. It was inspiring.

    Slashdot has not been like that for several years now. The interesting bits have become increasingly hard to find among all the patent nonsense, speculation and general news. (The Egyptian coup is news for nerds apparently).

    I could put up with that. Even though I started visiting Slashdot less often and often just skimmed it before leaving off to sites like arstechnica or stackexchange.

    But to see that Slashdot only spends _a footnote_ on the death of Douglas Engelbart, just really does it. This is not the Slashdot I knew and loved. We just have to face the facts and stop pretending; it is over.

    So Slashdot, thank you for all the things I have learned and the joy you gave me over the years, but it is time to part my friend. Farewell.

    • Yes, I agree not having a main article on Doug's death is saddening and disrespectful to Doug Engelbart's legacy -- or at least an indication of increasing cluelessness or lack of historic awareness among the slashdot editors. Slashdot still has its moments though, but I agree, having been reading slashdot for ten or so years (I would have had a lower user ID except I did not post for a long time), it has changed.

      Of course, people have been saying slashdot is dying since 2005 or maybe earlier, and Apple has

      • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @10:01PM (#44184771) Homepage

        Or is it about fourteen years I've been reading slashdot now that I think about it? Since around 1998-1999?

        But one other point -- for anyone reading slashdot for so long, there is less and less that is new. And you know more and more other news sources, so stuff on slashdot is more often stuff you've seen before. So, it might seem less interesting, but to others, it may still be fascinating.

        For example, I'm not a systems administrator except for my own equipment and projects, and I don't follow those trends that closely in other ways, but it seems like many hang out here, and I am still learning a lot about such stuff in various discussions that is close to cutting edge. It might be possible that there are less programmers overall though, as stuff like StackOverflow occupies a lot of programmer attention these days (but without the meta level discussions or tangential discussions possible on slashdot)?

        I don't think I've looked up Slashdot on Wikipedia before, but from there: []
        "As of 2006, Slashdot had approximately 5.5 million users per month. As of January 2013, the site's Alexa rank is 2,000, with the average user spending 3 minutes and 18 seconds per day on the site and 82,665 sites linking in.[1] The primary stories on the site consist of a short synopsis paragraph, a link to the original story, and a lengthy discussion section, all contributed by users. Discussion on stories can get up to 10,000 posts per day. Slashdot has been considered a pioneer in user-driven content, influencing other sites such as Google News and Wikipedia.[65][66] However, there has been a dip in readership as of 2011, primarily due to the increase of technology-related blogs and Twitter feeds.[67]"

        In a way, there may be some parallels to Doug Engelbart's life. He pioneered (with others) some amazing things, and then others took them and ran with them in different directions, and he began to be slowly forgotten. As an analogy, when you wake up in the middle of the night and turn on a lightbulb, it can seem glaringly bright, but then when the sun comes up, you may not even notice it is still on. Slashdot contributed in a variety of ways to the dawn of the web by supporting all the people who made it happen.

        Ultimately though, I feel the answer may not be so much as to find better sites (and I still think it is hard to compare with slashdot), as to reinvent knowledge sharing such as with a social semantic desktop.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Wish I had mod points. But I may not need them, Just not coming back is enough.

    • If you browse the old Slashdot articles, you can see that it has been mostly the same all the time. Others blame CmdrTaco leaving, others Dice. Slashdot has always be more about fun than being a high-quality journalistic publication. There is no convincing proof that the site is going downhill.
  • ... it was seeing the Windows 8 touch interface that killed him.

  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @10:14PM (#44184865) Homepage

    when all other funding was going to AI, Licklider also funded human-machine interaction via Doug. []
    "He has been called "computing's Johnny Appleseed", for having planted the seeds of computing in the digital age. Robert Taylor, founder of Xerox PARC's Computer Science Laboratory and Digital Equipment Corporation's Systems Research Center, noted that ""most of the significant advances in computer technology -- including the work that my group did at Xerox PARC -- were simply extrapolations of Lick's vision. They were not really new visions of their own. So he was really the father of it all."[2] ... Licklider was instrumental in conceiving, funding and managing the research that led to modern personal computers and the Internet. In 1960 his seminal paper on Man-Computer Symbiosis foreshadowed interactive computing, and he went on to fund early efforts in time-sharing and application development, most notably the work of Douglas Engelbart, who founded the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute and created the famous On-Line System where the computer mouse was invented."

    But there were others even before that, from Norbert Weiner to Vannevar Bush to Theodore Sturgeon and others. Doug's life was a link in a chain that stretches back to the first idea of a "standing bear" cave painting made by the "Walking People" thousands of years ago to instruct the young. []

    Just like our lives now are links in a chain the hopefully stretches out to new future possibilities.

    But that is not to take away from the importance of what Doug did with his life. Otherwise maybe we'd have only AI and not human-machine symbiosis?

The moon is a planet just like the Earth, only it is even deader.