TITLE: Douglas Engelbart Wasn't Just Another Computer Guy AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: July 06, 2013 9:57 AM DESC: ----- BODY: Bret Victor nails it:
Albert Einstein, Discoverer of Photoelectric Effect, Dies at 76
In the last few days, I've been telling family and friends about Engelbart's vision and effect on the world the computing, and thus on their world. He didn't just "invent the mouse". It's hard to imagine these days just how big Engelbart's vision was for the time. Watching The Mother of All Demos now, it's easy to think "What's the big deal? We have all that stuff now." or even "Man, that video looks prehistoric." First of all, we don't have all that stuff today. Watch again. Second, in a sense, that demo was prehistory. Not only did we not have such technology at the time, almost no one was thinking about it. It's not that people thought such things were impossible; they couldn't think about them at all, because no one had conceived them yet. Engelbart did. Engelbart didn't just invent a mouse that allows us to point at files and web links. His ideas helped point an entire industry toward the future. Like so many of our computing pioneers, though, he dreamed of more than what we have now, and expected -- or at least hoped -- that we would build on the industry's advanced to make his vision real. Engelbart understood that skills which make people productive are probably difficult to learn. But they are so valuable that the effort is worth it. I'm reminded of Alan Kay's frequent use of a violin as an example, compared to a a simpler music-making device, or even to a radio. Sure, a violin is difficult to play well. But when you can play -- wow. Engelbart was apparently fond of another example: the tricycle
Riding a bicycle -- unlike a tricycle -- is a skill that requires a modest degree of practice (and a few spills), but the rider of a bicycle quickly outpaces the rider of a tricycle.
Most of the computing systems we use these days are tricycles. Doug Engelbart saw a better world for us. -----