The human side of Doug Engelbart

Doug as a young boy with his brother
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.”

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Links referenced in Gardner Campbell Conversation with Christina Engelbart | Christina in Concept Space
  2. Great Doug Engelbart Quotes | collective iq

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