by Craig Roth | July 5, 2013 | Comments Off on Goodbye and Thank You to Douglas Engelbart
It’s taken mouse-less tablet computers to reveal how addicted I’ve become to the computer mouse. All the more reason to mourn the death of Douglas Engelbart, who died on Tuesday (see a good obit at the Guardian ).
Mr. Engelbart was the father of the mouse, which was revealed to the world in the “mother of all demos” that changed the face of computing.
When I saw my first computer with a mouse attached (an Apple ][) I thought the mouse was a limited use novelty. I co-wrote games with a friend of mine and he bought one to help with drawing and animation. I tried it out, thought it was good if you have to draw curvy lines, and walked away.
Fast forward to 2013. I buy a bluetooth keyboard for my iPad thinking it will move me closer to the hard core productivity work I can do on my PC. That’s when my addiction to having a mouse really dawns on me. With a mouse, a screen is a collection of clickable real estate. Without a mouse, a screen is a window through which you can give commands for actions to be taken. With no mouse, I feel one step removed from the items on the screen and it breaks the illusion that these are physical objects I can manipulate.
It took a leap of insight in 1968 to envision a concept of virtual space and connectedness where others saw letters glowing on a screen. Or to imagine virtual anything. It’s now common to assume computer users can associate with virtual representations, from virtual desktops to virtual worlds. It’s engrained in most users. But that’s only because pioneers like Douglas Engelbart showed us how we can feel connected to (rather than just accessing) information constructs that don’t have a physical representation. Let’s hope there are more Douglas Engelbart’s out there designing the next revolution in computing.
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