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By guest contributor Patricia Seybold, Founder & CEO of Patricia Seybold Group, author of Customers.com, The Customer Revolution, and Outside Innovation.
Twenty-five years ago, an innovative experiment was launched in western Uganda: to co-evolve a set of transformational techniques with impoverished people living in rural, under-developed areas—tools that empower people to create a vision of what they want in their lives and to work together to achieve that vision. Now, twenty-five years later, tens of thousands of people are teaching one another how to “Awaken the Sleeping Genius in Each of Us” as they improve the quality of their lives and the prosperity of their homes and their communities.
One part of URDT’s “secret sauce” is to teach school girls to become change agents in their families and in their communities. This “low tech” example uses the brilliant minds of enterprising young girls to ignite the brilliant minds of their family members. These families prosper, and, in turn, teach others in their communities how to replicate their success, they then all move on to community-scale projects—building schools, water sources, roads, and farming co-ops.
To spread the power of this creative visionary approach to community development, many of these girls graduate from the URDT Girls School and become students at the African Rural University. There, they join other young women from across Africa to be trained as Rural Transformation Agents.
Video: Grace Biira—Why I am studying at the African Rural University
When they graduate, they are offered jobs in rural sub-counties—each young woman is now chartered to ignite the creativity and aspirations of people in scores of rural villages. Among their duties: identify and support additional school girls and their families to become role models creating systemic change in each village. Help villagers create and achieve visions for their communities.
How URDT Embodies the Principles of Improving Collective IQ
A. We teach children and adults how to create a vision of the goals they want to achieve, and how to use the structural tension between their current reality and their vision to generate actions that enable them to realize their goals. Students and their families apply these techniques in the students’ “back home projects” each school term. Students teach their parents new techniques to use each semester, and are graded on how well their families learn and do using this “Two-Generation” approach to education (kids teaching their parents and siblings).
B. We use systems thinking, participatory action planning, and collective reflection to continuously improve how quickly and how well people on campus and in the communities are able to achieve their goals. This is a daily practice, involving the entire student body, faculty and staff for an hour at the start of each day.
C. We are constantly identifying new opportunities for collective co-evolution. For example, school girls’ parents decided to form a savings co-operative to grant micro-loans for farming projects. Then farmers decided to improve the profits from organic farming by planting higher value crops. Then they decided to build agricultural processing plants to create higher-value food, like milled flour and animal feed. These locally-generated initiatives are replicated across the network of participating families and communities.
1. How do we Engage Our Innovators?
We start with the school children. We teach first school girls, now both girls and boys, how to use the creative process and the visionary approach. We also arm them with practical know-how in sanitation, nutrition, organic farming and business entrepreneurship.
The children teach their parents and their siblings—both first hand, and by writing and performing plays in the communities, and by broadcasting on the community radio.
These families who now have a creative, visionary orientation towards life inspire and teach others in their communities. Many start small businesses and hire and train others.
The school children and families are supported by the teachers and staff at URDT. The leaders in each village, district, and county become enrolled in the creative, visionary process through participatory action workshops. The community radio is used to supplement and reinforce the hands on training the interns provide and to mobilize community members.
The African Rural University student interns and graduates identify, train and support innovators in the rural communities they’re deployed in. They work with community members to identify needs, and to plan and execute community-driven projects to address those needs. They also train and support the leaders at each level of government.
These interns and graduates support one another and they are supported by the staff of URDT. The community members support one another and join together in a variety of community projects.
2. How Do We Leverage Our Collective IQ?
The University graduates who work in the field as “Epicenter Managers” and the secondary school children who work with their families on school breaks all report back what they are learning and what challenges they’re seeing.
Students, interns, faculty, and graduates write and share reports, create video documentaries, establish a baseline for each family and document the improvements in household income, health, nutrition, and education.
The educational institutions on the URDT campus use the learnings from all the field work that is taking place to study what works and what needs improvement. For example, the University students engaged in participatory research with groups of women in several villages about land rights. Who owned the land they were farming? What kind of ownership was it (there are 4 different kinds of land ownership)? Who inherits the land? What can you do to gain title to the land you are farming? How can you ensure that you will retain title to the land when your spouse dies? These village women—many of them illiterate—learned about their own properties and took the steps required to gain title to the land they were farming. This land rights participatory education program was so successful that it is now being developed into curriculum for secondary schools throughout Uganda.
3. How Do We Focus on Core Capabilities?
The goals of the people we serve are to improve their health, income, and quality of life.
We provide them the tools to envision and to achieve these goals by teaching them how to master the creative process to achieve what they want in their lives.
We also teach them the skills they need to improve sanitation, nutrition, farming productivity, carpentry, mechanics, solar technology, and many other trades and crafts, and we teach them how to start and run a profitable business.
The new vocabulary they use is related to having a creative orientation. They talk about creating and achieving a vision. They talk about engaging their family members in planning. They refer to obstacles as their “current reality.” They identify local resources they can mobilize to achieve their goals.
Their world view is very holistic. They have all become “systems thinkers.” They see the interconnectedness between sanitation and good nutrition and health. They discuss the need to improve the quality of their roads in order to increase commerce and gain access to better education and healthcare.
4. Push the Frontier: How are we accelerating our human/tools co-evolution & understanding how quickly we can evolve?
By replicating the same practices from the school child to the family unit, to the community, to the sub-county, we are creating a recursive ripple effect. That’s why we call our employed university graduates—our Rural Transformation Specialists—Epicenter Managers. Each one is at the epicenter of a new set of waves of co-evolution and co-development.
Many of the people in the communities that are engaging with URDT and ARU and its students and graduates are wholeheartedly adopting the principles of the creative orientation towards their own lives. They have moved from resignation and apathy to being engaged creators of their own destinies. They are working across tribal and gender boundaries on common, shared projects. In addition to the pilot projects that are undertaken each year in 240 families (the families of the Girls’ School students) over a five to six year period, we also have two or three projects going in each village in which there is an intern or an ARU graduate. In addition to these projects, which have been stimulated by URDT/ARU students and graduates, many local people and village leaders are undertaking their own projects to improve some aspect of the community infrastructure (roads, schools, clinics) or of the local economy (savings societies, marketplaces, value-added production).
We can and do support and amplify the co-evolution through outreach, through radio programming, by interviewing and documenting success stories, by holding community meetings, and by bringing experts from all over the world to study what is happening in this corner of Uganda.
5. How Do We Walk Our Talk?
We excel in practicing what we preach. We are constantly coming up with new ideas for new ways to improve sustainable livelihoods in rural communities. For example, we provide training for urban youth on how to thrive in the rural communities they migrated from—how to engage in profitable agriculture and to build local sustainable businesses so they can remain in the countryside, rather than working in an overcrowded, congested urban setting.
We are embarking on a “green campus” program to take our current organic farm and sustainable energy practices to the next level as we continue to evolve and improve our campus.
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December 9th, 2013 marked the 45th anniversary of the Mother of All Demos with a wonderful memorial celebration of Doug Engelbart, a new tribute site honoring Doug Engelbart, more tributes, and numerous articles.
“We at the Doug Engelbart Institute wish to extend
our deepest heartfelt gratitude to the Computer History Museum, SRI International, and Logitech Inc. for an incredibly moving, rousing
and fitting memorial celebration.”
- Christina Engelbart, Executive Director and Daughter.
Tribute to Doug Engelbart Website
New tribute site honoring Doug Engelbart – share how you were touched, browse photo gallery, tribute videos, and more.
The Computer Mouse: Enabling Personal Computing
A wonderful video short from SRI International
See the System Behind Engelbart’s Historic Mother of All Demos,
By Brad Neuberg, lead developer in the HyperScope project
An Homage to Douglas Engelbart and a Critique of the State of Tech
By John Markoff, NY Times, December 16, 2013
Computer History Museum Honors Technology Legend Douglas Engelbart
IT Business Net, Dec 9, 2013
Computer History Museum Honors Technology Legend Douglas Engelbart
Globe News Wire, Dec 9, 2013
Doug Engelbart Lives On – A Celebration of His Life and Unfinished Work
Tom Foremski, Silicon Valley Watcher, December 12, 2013
In Pictures: The Mother of All Demos – The 1968 presentation that sparked a tech revolution
CIO Magazine, Dec 9, 2013
The Mother of All Demos’ Is 45 Years Old, Doesn’t Look a Day Over 25
The Atlantic, Dec 9, 2013
45 Years Ago, We Saw The Mouse For The First Time
Huffington Post, Dec 9, 2013
Tech Time Warp of the Week: The Mother of All Demos, 1968
Wired, Dec 13, 2013
Mother of All Demos
To learn more about the demo or watch footage of the demo, visit Doug’s 1968 Demo at the Doug Engelbart Institute.
Re: “What ever happened to Augmenting Human Intellect” November 30, 2013Posted by Christina Engelbart in Collective IQ, Technology.
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Here is a must-see webinar from O’Reilly Webcast:
Whatever Happened to “Augmenting Human Intellect”?
Presented by Scott Murray November 20 2013
Exploring the fundamental role of data visualization in a palatable form to human perception
Vote for the Mouse in first-ever Tech Tournament October 21, 2013Posted by Christina Engelbart in Historic.
Tags: historic firsts, mouse, Tribute
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Here’s your chance to cast your vote for, say, the Mouse, in the first ever Tech Tournament, “where innovation’s elite compete in a bracket-style competition to determine the most meaningful technological advancement from the past three-quarters of a century.”
See this fabulous video short The Computer Mouse: Enabling Personal Computing. Then visit the Mouse entry at the tournament site, where you can cast your vote in three quick steps: (1) register, (2) sign in, and (3) click “Vote for this entry”.
This is just one of many great ways to celebrate the 45th Anniversary of Doug Engelbart’s 1968 “Mother of All Demos” coming up this December 9th. For more background on these seminal innovations, and other ways to celebrate, visit the Doug Engelbart Institute.
To browse other tournament entries, visit http://bit.ly/18CItCV – if you don’t see the Mouse entry, try Sort by Date or Summary.
This tournament is sponsored by the International Research Institute (IRI). The Mouse entry video was submitted by member SRI International, formerly Stanford Research Institute, where Doug Engelbart invented the Mouse, and more recently where SIRI was born before spinning off into startup.
Voting ends November 15th.
The human side of Doug Engelbart July 6, 2013Posted by Christina Engelbart in Human Interest.
Tags: Doug, tributes
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Doug as a young boy (left) with his kid brother (right)
See Photos from Childhood
So much has been written about his professional vision and accomplishments, here are some snippets about his human side.
“He’s right up there in that category of probably the top 10 people, ever, in Silicon Valley, not only for the work they did, but how they touched people.”
– Curt Carlson, President & CEO, SRI International, where Doug did the bulk of his seminal research [source]
“He wanted to help people solve problems, and he saw the world as having very significant problems. That is not something you can get a patent on, start a company or make a fortune on. Bill Gates’ vision was a computer on every desk running Microsoft software. Doug had a much larger humanitarian vision.”
– Howard Rheingold, in “Tools for Thought” [source]
“Doug’s ideas were not really about technology, per se. Rather, his goal was to improve collaboration and the way people work together to solve the toughest, most important societal problems.”
– Curt Carlson’s Reflections on Doug Engelbart [source]
“Engelbart was big on the people part of the equation. He clearly saw the heartbeat behind the ones and zeros of the digital age. He believed that computers, which were primarily for crunching numbers and spitting out answers when he started his work, had the ability to empower people and enhance their intellect in ways that would improve their lives.”
— Mike Cassidy, Mercury News siliconvalley.com [source]
“He saw the computer as a power tool for boosting both individual and organizational IQ. Doug had this vision that computers could augment human intelligence and he set about creating a system that would do that.”
— Andy van Dam, Brown University [source]
“Doug’s vision was to create a new home for the human mind, to turn digital technology into powerful tools that would help us meet the ever greater challenges on this planet.”
– Paul Saffo, Futurist, Consulting Professor at Stanford University [source]
“Doug Engelbart’s legacy is much more than “the mouse.” He designed and refined a new organizational nervous system for the 21st century.”
– Patricia Seybold, Outside Innovation [source]
“Doug thought at scale. He understood that a car is not simply a faster tricycle. He had faith that an augmented intellect, joined to millions of other augmented intellects, could [empower] vast new modes of thinking [that] could grasp intricately meaningful symbols as quickly and comprehensively as we can recognize a loved one’s face. For Doug, computers [were] the tools we have invented in our quest for a new language.”
– Gardner Campbell, Vice Provost for Learning Innovation, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. [source]
“It’s as if they found the person who invented writing, and credited them for inventing the pencil,” says Bret Victor re: tech writer interviews of Engelbart. “The least important question you can ask about Engelbart is, “What did he build?” [...] The most important question you can ask about Engelbart is, “What world was he trying to create?”"
– Bret Victor [source]
From writings on the Doug Engelbart Institute site
See Just for Kids – Excerpt: “As far as being a grandpa, he would always make up stories about a really intelligent, really little, magical dog named Fifi who can make himself really tiny or even invisible and fly around in a miniature spaceship and cause mischief. He especially likes the mischief part.” Read more…
See also How Doug Engelbart taught kids to ride a bike (without training wheels) – “Doug’s inquisitive nature, adventurous attitude, compassion, and patience were a key part of his success with this method — one of his lesser known but highly endearing innovations…” Read more…
From A Lifetime Pursuit – “He and his wife of 47 years, Ballard [...] were avid folk dancers for many years with a very special group of friends of all ages. Through the years Doug also enjoyed exercising, hiking, camping, sailing, reading, bike riding (although he appeased his wife long ago by giving up trick riding), organic gardening, raising ducks, earthworms, and bees, reading mysteries, making up science fiction fantasy stories for children, giving science lectures to his wife Ballard when she had trouble sleeping, and any excuse for a family gathering.” Read more…
From tributes posted by friends and colleagues
“Very sorry to hear about Doug’s passing. He was one of the nicest, best intentioned people I’ve ever known. The world is a dimmer place without him, but a much brighter place for his having been here.”
“We still remember the folk dancing parties that Doug and Ballard put on at your house in Atherton.”
“Your father has been a presence in my life since the day I met him, about 1966. A wonderful man, a formative influence on so many people, and yes, a genius. We won’t see his like again, and I am very proud to have worked for him.”
“such a gentle, beautiful man.”
“He was a truly great man, and I learned SO much from him.”
“He was an extraordinary man.”
“He was a wonderful father, as well as amazing visionary.”
“He was an amazing person and I have fond memories of him around your home, camping, helping with science projects.”
“One thing I especially liked about your dad was how gentle and kind he was. He seemed to truly love people. I’m honored to have worked with him.”
“He was such a light, a kind warmhearted person. Getting to work with both of you a few years ago taught me so many things and made me a better person.”
“Doug and his dreams where so much a part on so many of us. I am so lucky to have been in part of them.”
“A thankful world stands in awe of his inventiveness, intelligence, generosity and humility.”
Press tributes to Doug Engelbart on his passing July 4, 2013Posted by Christina Engelbart in Human Interest.
Tags: Doug, tributes
So many wonderful articles, photos and tributes are appearing to mark the passing of Doug Engelbart, a great legend and wonderful man, on Tuesday, July 2, 2013. We will be posting some of the highlights here. For tributes from friends, colleagues, and the public, or to post your own, please see the Doug Engelbart Institute Facebook page. For more information about him and his life’s work, past, present and future, see the Doug Engelbart Institute website.
Doug Engelbart circa 1998 [Getty]
SRI Alumnus and World-Renowned Computing Pioneer Douglas Engelbart Passed Away July 2, SRI International Press Release
Computer Visionary Who Invented the Mouse, by John Markoff, NY Times
Douglas Engelbart, 88; changed computers with his mouse, by John Markoff, NY Times
The Hut Where the Internet Began, The Atlantic Monthly
Remembering Doug Engelbart, PC Magazine
Doug Engelbart, inventor of computer mouse, dies at 88, The Guardian
Doug Engelbart Dead: Inventor Of The Computer Mouse Dies At 88, Huffington Post
Engelbart, inventor of computer mouse, dies at 88, By Michael Liedtke, AP, San Francisco Chronicle
Douglas Engelbart, tech genius and inventor of the mouse, dies at 88, By Mike Cassidy, Mercury News
Stanford researcher Doug Engelbart, inventor of the computer mouse, dies, by Brooke Donald, Stanford University
Douglas Engelbart, Computer Mouse Creator, Visionary, Dies at 88, by Laurence Arnold, Bloomberg Newsroom
Reflections on Douglas Engelbart and His Influence on SRI Today, by Curt Carlson, President & CEO SRI International, author Five Disciplines of Innovation
Remembering Doug Engelbart, by Bracken Darrell, Logitech President & CEO
Learning from Revolutionaries: Doug Engelbart & John Seybold, by Patricia Seybold, Outside Innovation: “Doug’s life work isn’t over. We still need to implement much of his vision…”
Douglas Engelbart’s Unfinished Revolution, by Howard Rheingold for MIT Technology Review, author Tools for Thought
Doug Engelbart and the vision thing: Is Silicon Valley suffering from a failure of imagination? by Mathew Ingram, GigaOM
Remembering Doug Engelbart, TED – Ideas Worth Spreading
Last week a Great Man, Doug Engelbart, passed away, by Kevin Hughes
People we’ve lost in 2013, CNN (listed under Icons)
Computing legend Douglas Engelbart dies at 88, by Edward Moyer C|NET
A few words on Doug Engelbart, by Bret Victor
Inventing the Mouse April 12, 2013Posted by Christina Engelbart in Archives, Historic.
Tags: Doug, historic firsts, mouse, tributes
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Watch Doug tell the story (2004)
[courtesy Logitech, Inc.]
The first mouse –
click to see photo gallery
[courtesy SRI International and Stanford University MouseSite]
Doug Engelbart invented the computer mouse in the early 1960s in his research lab at Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International). The first prototype was built in 1964, the patent application for this “X-Y position indicator for a display system” was filed in 1967, and US Patent 3,541,541 was awarded in 1970. Although many impressive innovations for interacting with computers have followed in the last 50 years since its invention, the mouse remains to this day the most efficient hands on pointing device available.
The basic idea for the mouse first came to him in the early 1960s while sitting in a conference session on computer graphics, his mind mulling over the challenge of making interactive computing more efficient. It occurred to him in that moment that, using a pair of small wheels traversing a tabletop, one wheel turning horizontally, one turning vertically, the computer could track their combined rotations and move the cursor on the display accordingly. The wheels could function something like the wheels on a planimeter – a tool used by engineers and geographers to measure areas on a map, blueprint, drawing, etc. – but in this case, rolling the wheels around on the tabletop would plot the x,y coordinates for a cursor on a computer screen. He recorded the idea in his notebook for future reference.
A little over a year later, Engelbart was awarded a long-awaited grant at SRI to launch his dream research initiative titled “Augmenting Human Intellect,” for which he envisioned intellectual workers sitting at high-performance interactive display workstations to access a vast online information space in which to collaborate on important challenges. He hired a small research team, and began setting up a basic lab with computer and teletypes, followed by a display terminal.
By now there were several off-the-shelf solutions for moving the cursor and selecting something on a display screen, but no good data about which would be most efficient to meet Engelbart’s “high-performance” requirement. He applied for and was awarded a small grant from NASA to explore that question.
Engelbart and his research staff rounded up best of breed pointing devices, and also rigged up some in-house prototypes to experiment with, such as a foot pedal and a knee-operated device. Engelbart also dug up his earlier notes which he reviewed with his lead engineer Bill English, who built a prototype of the hand-held device with perpendicular wheels mounted in a carved out wooden block, with a button on top, to test with the others. This was the first computer mouse (pictured above and below).
In 1965 Engelbart’s team published their final report evaluating the efficiency of the various screen-selection techniques. They had pitted the mouse against a handful of other devices, some off the shelf, some of their own making (see Mouse Alternatives below). The mouse won hands down, and was thus included as standard equipment in their research moving forward (see Screen-Selection Experiments below for links to key reports and papers detailing these experiments). In 1967, SRI filed for the patent on the mouse, technically termed the “x,y position indicator,” and the patent was awarded in 1970.
The first mouse plugged into it’s display workstation
- circa 1964 (click to enlarge)
1968 version includes three-button mouse and five-key keyset(click to enlarge)
Enter, the Keyset: In the meantime, to further increase efficiency, Engelbart’s team thought to offer a companion to the mouse – a device for the left hand to enter commands or text while the right hand was busy pointing and clicking (shown above). After trying out several variations, they settled on a telegraph-style “keyset” with five keys akin to piano keys, which also became standard equipment in the lab (pictured below). Both devices were introduced to the public in Engelbart’s 1968 demonstration, now known as the “Mother of All Demos” (see Check It Out below for links to selected video footage of the debut, historic photos, and more).
“The mouse we built for the  show was an early prototype that had three buttons. We turned it around so the tail came out the top. We started with it going the other direction, but the cord got tangled when you moved your arm. I first started making notes for the mouse in ’61. At the time, the popular device for pointing on the screen was a light pen, which had come out of the radar program during the war. It was the standard way to navigate, but I didn’t think it was quite right.
Two or three years later, we tested all the pointing gadgets available to see which was the best. Aside from the light pen there was the tracking ball and a slider on a pivot. I also wanted to try this mouse idea, so Bill English went off and built it.
We set up our experiments and the mouse won in every category, even though it had never been used before. It was faster, and with it people made fewer mistakes. Five or six of us were involved in these tests, but no one can remember who started calling it a mouse. I’m surprised the name stuck.
We also did a lot of experiments to see how many buttons the mouse should have. We tried as many as five. We settled on three. That’s all we could fit. Now the three-button mouse has become standard, except for the Mac.”
– Source: The Click Heard Round The World, by Ken Jordan, WIRED 2004.
|Watch the world debut of the mouse (1968)|
Witness the 1968 debut of the mouse and keyset, and watch the mouse and keyset in action in Doug’s 1968 “Mother of All Demos (see SRI’s 1968 Demo Highlights for more); take a minute to explore the Stanford University MouseSite where you will find images of the first mouse, the US Patent on the Mouse, historic photos from the lab, and much more.
|Visit the online Mouse Exhibit|
The mouse later migrated from Doug’s lab at SRI to Xerox PARC, and then to Apple and others. One of the most common myths about the mouse is the mistaken belief that it was invented at Xerox PARC. Note that the patent for the mouse was filed in 1967, by which time production models were in operational use throughout Doug’s lab, three years before Xerox PARC was established in 1970.
Engelbart and his team tested a half dozen pointing devices for speed and accuracy. These included the mouse plus a knee apparatus (pictured here on the left), both created in-house, along with several off the shelf devices such as DEC’s Grafacon (pictured here on the right, modified for testing purposes), a joy stick, and light pen. See Screen-Selection Experiments below for links to more details and photos. They also experimented with a foot pedal device as well as a helmet mounted device, neither of which made made it into the final tests.
|From Doug Engelbart’s
experiments with pointing devices (mid 1960s)
A knee-operated pointing device
DEC’s hand-operated gyro-stlye “Grafacon”
In the 1950s, Doug Engelbart set his sights on a lofty goal — to develop dramatically better ways to support intellectual workers around the globe in the daunting task of finding solutions to larger and larger problems with greater speed and effectiveness than ever before imagined. His goal was to revolutionize the way we work together on such tasks. He saw computers, at the time used only for number crunching, as a new medium for advancing the state of the art in collaborative knowledge work. Building on technology available at the time, his research agenda required that his team push the envelope on all fronts: they had to expand the boundaries of display technology and interactive computing and human-computer interface, help launch network computing, and invent hypermedia, groupware, knowledge management, digital libraries, computer supported software engineering, client-server architecture, the mouse, etc. on the technical front, as well as pushing the frontiers in process reengineering and continuous improvement, including inventing entirely new organizational concepts and methodologies on the human front. Engelbart even invented his own innovation strategy for accelerating the rate and scale of innovation in his lab which, by the way, proved very effective. His seminal work garnered many awards, and sparked a revolution that blossomed into the Information Age and the Internet. But as yet we have only scratched the surface of the true potential Engelbart envisioned for dramatically boosting our collective IQ in the service of humankind’s greatest challenges.
- MouseSite – the definitive website on the Mouse hosted by Stanford University, especially their Photos of the First Mouse page. They also curate video of the 1968 demo and other significant archives from Doug Engelbart’s work.
- See the SRI Timeline on Innovation page Personal Computing + the Mouse, the SRI press release Engelbart and the Dawn of Interactive Computing (excellent overview), as well as our event resources page for Engelbart and the Dawn of Interactive Computing
- Visit the online exhibit on The Mouse at the Computer History Museum or visit their museum in Mt. View, CA; check out their Early Computer Mouse Encounters event at the Computer History Museum, Oct 17, 2001
- See the Mouse Timeline in The computer mouse turns 40 – a great article by Benj Edwards, Macworld, Dec 9, 2008
on the history of the Mouse.
- Visit Logitech’s Billionth Mouse site – see the genesis of the mouse.
- Planimeter: Planimeters are often used by surveyors, foresters, geologists, geographers, engineers, and architects to measure areas on maps of any kind and scale, as well as plans, blueprints, or any scale drawing or plan. (source: Ben Meadows). See How Planimeters Are Used for some great visuals (thanks to Dr. Robert Foote at Wabash College), and this photo of geographers using planimeter for the 1940 census (thanks to the National Archives). See also Wikipedia’s more complete Planimeter article with links to other resources.
- Screen-Selection Experiments: Display-Selection Techniques for Text Manipulation, William K. English, Douglas C. Engelbart and Melvyn L. Berman, March 1967. This paper describes an experimental study into the relative merits of different CRT display-selection devices as used within a real-time, computer-display, text-manipulation system in use at Stanford Research Institute. The mouse was tested against other devices and found to be the most accurate and efficient. See also the 1965 Report and the 1966 Quarterly Report detailing their screen-selection experiments.
- “The Mother of All Demos” (90 min Video/Film) Doug’s 1968 debut of the NLS system for online work including hypermedia, the mouse, online collaboration, interactive computing, human computer interface, and overarching guiding principles for the research. See especially Clip 12 where Doug, sitting in San Francisco, brings in a coworker sitting in his lab in Menlo Park, to demonstrate the mouse, and Clip 13 where Doug introduces the keyset. See also our comprehensive portal page to the 1968 Demo for the basic story and links to demo highlights, archive photos and footage, background, articles, and more.
- Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework, Douglas C. Engelbart. 1962. See for example how he envisioned an architect might work interactively with a computer in 1962 in the Introduction’s summary of Section IV (quoted at right).
- Doug Engelbart – A Lifetime Pursuit, a short biographical sketch by Christina Engelbart describes the larger context of this early work.
A day in the life of a personal archivist March 17, 2011Posted by Christina Engelbart in Archives, Historic, Human Interest.
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I wear many hats at the Doug Engelbart Institute, one of which is head archivist for the Doug Engelbart Archive Collection. In the spring of 2010 it came time to upload archive videos of Doug Engelbart’s demos, lectures, tributes, interviews, etc. dating 1968-2008. I worked with the good folks at the Internet Archive to upload over 100 videos that had been previously digitized, into a new Personal Archive collection on the Internet Archive called the Doug Engelbart Video Archives.
Doug had early on established a methodology for his library, in which each item received a unique ID number, and was cataloged in a master index. So we started this uploading project with what appeared to be a fairly comprehensive index, including ID number, title, name of conference or company, location, names of other people on the video, if any, name of person it was received from, producer, etc. — whatever information was on hand at the time it was cataloged. The first task was to make a pass over the index and spot check the videos to sort out some discrepancies. This turned out to be huge. Lucky for me I had worked alongside my father extensively over many years, and knew something about many of the events represented in these videos, was present at a number of them, had been the event organizer for others. Plus his/our long-time secretary, Mary Coppernoll, had kept meticulous files and was available to search through them.
Next, selecting what to upload onto the Internet Archive site, getting them uploaded with descriptive filenames (eternally grateful to Laura Milvy at Internet Archive!), and annotating the material with ID numbers, summary descriptions including any specific info we had in our files regarding the event, cross-referencing related videos in the collection, and researching the internet for related documents or webpages already posted by others, adding links to those. This turned out to be way huge.
Many people think of archiving in terms of saving, preserving and cataloging pieces into a collection and, where there is sufficient interest, arranging for part or all of it to be (broadly) available. In our case, as in many cases, what’s equally important once the preservation and indexing is secured, is establishing the context, and telling the story.
Without the context, the archives will likely be meaningless to most people, an esoteric treasure trove to a few. Telling the story is about establishing very rich, relational context and meaning. It’s what brings the stuff to life.
Context is Everything
So for example, I hold in my hand a video of a talk my father gave in 1986. At a conference. What conference? The Conference on the History of the Personal Workstation. I knew this because it was an important talk for him at the time, an opportunity as the so-called “Father of Personal Computing” to pull together historic photos and video footage, and create a detailed timeline of his work. In his talk he told the story through pictures, unfolding how and why he invented what he did. The conference itself was seminal, and was later rendered into an important book of the same title. So, can we locate the conference program, event announcements, abstract of his talk, copies of the slides he used? How much of this info is already on the web? Can we scan in what we have to upload and link to? We had previously posted the paper he submitted to the proceedings. Did the book make it online? Unfortunately not. Is it at least described somewhere? Can we scan in a copy of my father’s chapter at least, for which the editor worked with him for months to refine and streamline, and as such is superior to the version we have online? See Doug’s talk (with what context I could muster) The Augmented Knowledge Workshop (1986).
Establishing the relationships among records and documents, following the threads, can be quite engrossing and time consuming — literally boundless. In the course of this video project, I found considerable bits and pieces of contextual material on the web, scanned in some, and pieced together others. In some cases I also created supporting web pages on our site, pulling related materials together into a special sub-collection of sorts.
My work with the Internet Archive on the video project led to an invitation to speak at last month’s 2011 Personal Digital Archiving conference at the Archive in San Francisco. Here’s a link to my talk Learnings from a Life’s Work: The Doug Engelbart Archives, in which I covered highlights of my father’s life’s work, experiences archiving that work, and how it informs the future of tools and practices for capturing, integrating, developing, evolving and re-using our individual and collective repositories, in both our work lives and our family lives. This blog post expands on some of the themes I touched on at the conference.
Here is the story of one sub-collection from our archive which exemplifies a day in the life of a personal archivist — a day that stretched into six weeks of painstaking but truly heartwarming and rewarding detail work.
Among the videos selected for digitizing and uploading, I found a complete collection of 11 speaker/panel sessions from the 1995 MIT/Brown Vannevar Bush Symposium celebrating 50 years of Vannevar Bush’s seminal article “As We May Think” published in the Atlantic Monthly, July 1945. This Symposium looked to be a veritable “who’s who” of great pioneers of the information age, gathered to honor the man and his article which had in some way touched and inspired each of them. Researching the web for related event resources and source materials, I found event webpages at both MIT and Brown, which between them included a rich assortment of event resources all posted back in 1995 and still online (!!!). I also discovered there is as yet no Vannevar Bush website. I did find the article itself posted on the Atlantic Monthly and Life Magazine websites, but no additional archive material on the web related to the article. Neither MIT nor Brown were in a position to update their event webpage, so I created a Vannevar Bush Symposium homepage on our site, linking to the resources on their two sites, to the event videos we’d just uploaded, and the other few items I’d located.
One day in July 2010, I came to realize that I was archiving this amazing event on the 65th anniversary of the Atlantic Monthly article. That gave pause for reflection. During this sub-project I was becoming increasingly aware and appreciative that I was resurrecting a gathering of great pioneers of the information age who had in turn been inspired by a great visionary from a prior generation. These luminaries, who had each dedicated their entire careers to pursuing some aspect of what makes the internet such a powerful medium for sharing and advancing knowledge, were brought together at the dawning of the internet (1995) to pay tribute to their inspirer, and to share with each other and a few dozen lucky attendees what they thought was significant about what was happening and where it was headed, which I was now for the first time posting onto the very digital technology they spawned so that anyone in the world could henceforth witness this seminal event using that technology — hopefully inspiring next and future generations of pioneers, using current technology to spawn next generation technology, recursively bootstrapping the future. Literally sent chills up my spine.
When I finally got a chance to actually watch all of my father’s talk from the Symposium, I noted that he had neglected to say anything about how he first encountered the article, which is a great story in itself! I had heard him tell it many times in many contexts. I scoured his oral histories and other first-hand accounts to double-check the facts, wrote up a thumbnail sketch under a new section of the Symposium homepage titled Influence on Doug Engelbart, with links to some amazing resources that had surfaced:
- a 1962 letter he wrote to Bush — already online (courtesy Stanford Libraries Special Collections)
- his personal copy of Bush’s 1945 article with his hand-written notes in the margin — Jake Feinler had recently discovered and indexed in her archive collection of the Network Information Center, which the Computer History Museum were kind enough to scan in for me to post, to which I affixed a source citation (courtesy Computer History Museum and Atlantic Monthly).
I also located the Philippine island where he first encountered the article in 1945 on a GoogleMaps map, which I copied into Photoshop where I could add labels in large enough to be easily read after sizing down the map to fit on my webpage (endless fussing!).
As this sub-collection came to life for me, I was struck again and again by how honored I felt, how deeply touched — one of the great rewards of participating in the archive process. Somewhere in there I also got to chat with Andy van Dam and Paul Kahn who had organized the 1995 Symposium, provided all the historic context for the Symposium, and had coalesced the conference resources onto a very impressive conference website for its time (1995). I love these guys.
Other sub-collections I have developed over time are available at the new Stories section of our Archives portal page, including pioneering firsts from my father’s lab:
- the story of the Mouse
- interactive computing
- the 1968 demo
- the first ARPANET transmission and online community
- …and more…
My next task is to find better ways to tell the whole story.
Personal Digital Archiving Conference 2011 March 1, 2011Posted by Christina Engelbart in Archives, Collective IQ, Historic, Human Interest.
Last week the Internet Archive hosted the second annual conference on Personal Digital Archiving February 24-25, 2011:
From family photographs and personal papers to health and financial information, vital personal records are becoming digital. Creation and capture of new digital information has become a part of the daily routine for hundreds of millions of people. But what are the long-term prospects for this data? The combination of new capture devices (more than 1 billion camera phones will be sold in 2010) with the move from older forms of media is reshaping both our personal and collective memories. The size and complexity of personal collections growing, these collections are spread across different media (including film and paper!), and the lines between personal and professional, published and unpublished are being redrawn.
For individuals, institutions, investors, entrepreneurs, and funding agencies thinking about how best to address these issues, Personal Digital Archiving 2011 will include a variety of examples that may be replicated, and will clarify the technical, social, economic questions around personal archiving.
In my presentation, “Learnings from a Life’s Work: The Doug Engelbart Archives,” I touched on my father’s life’s work, experiences archiving that work, and how it informs the future of tools and practices for capturing, integrating, developing, evolving and re-using our individual and collective repositories, in both our work lives and our family lives.
For more on Doug Engelbart’s work and archives, as well as current initiatives of the Doug Engelbart Institute, see:
For more information on Personal Digital Archiving 2011 see:
40th Anniversary of the Patent on the Mouse November 18, 2010Posted by Christina Engelbart in Uncategorized.
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Here’s something to tip your hat to – today marks the 40th anniversary of Doug Engelbart receiving the U.S. patent for the mouse on Nov 17, 1970. For more on the story behind the mouse, see the Father of the Mouse webpage at the Doug Engelbart Institute website. To see the approved patent from 1970, see the Mouse Patent page at the Stanford University MouseSite.
Although the mouse represents a profound innovation in and of itself, it was a mere byproduct of the vision Doug Engelbart set out to implement in the early 1960s. To see an early demo of the technology, see the Mother of All Demos page.
For background on his driving vision, which is more salient today than ever before, see Doug’s Vision Highlights.