Douglas Engelbart recently passed away, leaving us an amazing legacy including inventing the mouse, and this almost impossible demo of our future. At the start of this presentation, later dubbed “the mother of all demos”, Engelbart issued this challenge to future generations who waste their days flinging pissed-off birds at delinquent swine:
If, in your office, you as an intellectual worker were supplied with a computer display, backed up by a computer that was alive for you all day and was instantly responsible — responsive (hehe) to every interaction you had, how much value could you derive from that.
Here is the introduction to the demo from the title cards:
A Research Center For Augmenting Human Intellect
By Douglas C. Engelbart and William R. English
December 9, 1968
Produced at Standford Research Institute, Menlo Park, California
Under the joint sponsorship of: The Advanced Research Projects Agency, The National Aeronautics and Space Agency, and The Rome Air Development Center (Air Force).
The movie captures directly a technical-session presentation made at the fall joint computer conference in San Francisco, on December 9, 1968.
The movie screen will show what was projected by a high-powered TV projection onto a 22′ X 18′ screen mounted at the front of the 2000-chair convention-center arena, and the sound track will reproduce what came over the loudspeakers.
On the stage, below and to the audience’s right of the screen, was seated the main speaker (Doug Engelbart) at the controls of an on-line computer-display work station whose display output was projected on the screen (and simultaneously captured on film).
Behind the scenes, Bill English coordinated the supporting crew who manned cameras, switches, mixers, special-effects controllers, etc.. You will notice that all performers wore headsets to couple them into the intercom network that included a total of six key people located both in San Francisco and at the home laboratory in Menlo Park.
The capturing on film of the audio and video was a process subsidiary to the presentation, and the latter was not stopped for teh two times when the movie-camera operator had to load fresh film — consequently, there are noticeable gaps between reels (of the order of a minute).
Signals from auxiliary television cameras were sometimes switched to the projector — the opening scene is from such a camera, showing Engelbart’s face view, just after he was introduced.
In 1994, Knight-Ridder’s Information Design Lab, a newspaper company, published this video which very accurately predicts today’s tablets.
- Weigh under 2 pounds
- Display is comparable to ink on paper
- Blend text, images, video and audio
- Part of our daily lives (yes) around the turn of the century (off by a decade)
- “We may still use computers to create information, but we’ll use tablets to interact with information.”
The PBS show “Computer Chronicles” produced an entire episode on the fledgling Internet, even though it was, “in fact, just a little glance at tip on the cyberspace iceberg.”