As the mouse squeaks to a 40th year, its creator roars on

For everyone who works in computers, this Tuesday, 9 December, is a significant date. It’s the 40th anniversary of the day when Douglas Engelbart, one of the industry’s great visionaries, gave an audience of geeks at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco their first glimpse of the technological future that we all now inhabit.In the last few weeks, the mainstream media has been reporting this as the public debut of the computer mouse, which indeed it was. But the truth is that the mouse was really just a sideshow that day. The other innovations Engelbart unveiled included hypertext, object addressing, dynamic file linking, and shared-screen collaboration involving two people at different sites communicating over a network using audio and video. Engelbart was speaking in San Francisco but he was showing, via a video link, what was happening on the computers in his lab 40 miles away. And in those days, that was a very big deal.

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