Alaska News

Douglas Engelbart, the 'father' of the computer mouse, dies aged 88

Douglas Engelbart, known as the father of the computer mouse, has died at the age of 88.

Engelbart, a technologist, laid out a vision of an Internet decades before it became commercialized by the likes of Microsoft.

His daughter, Gerda, said in an mailing list dedicated to classic computers that he died peacefully in his sleep at home in Atherton, California.

Engelbart is best known for developing the mouse in the 1960s, patenting the device — a wooden shell covering two metal wheels — long before its widespread use, the BBC wrote.

Engelbart unveiled the mouse in 1968, before an audience of 1,000 leading technologists in San Francisco.

He called the cubic device with two rolling discs an "X-Y position indicator for a display system."

He had patented the device a year earlier, ABC News wrote, with the patent reading:


"This invention relates to visual display systems, and more particularly, to device for alternating the display at selected locations."

The mouse was popularized by Xerox PARC and Apple, which began to ship the mouse with the Apple's Lisa in 1983.

Nor did he come up with the name "mouse," ABC wrote, citing an interview in December 1986 in which Engelbart said:

"No one can remember [who came up with the name]. In the lab, the very first one we built had the cord coming out the back. It wasn't long before we realized that it would get in the way, and then we changed it to the front. But when it was trailing out the back like that, sitting there, just its funny little shape."

However, Wired wrote, Engelbart used the mouse with a graphical user interface 15 years before the arrival of the Apple Macintosh.

In a 2005 interview, Engelbart told said:

"Even way back then, we already had the concept of multiple windows. Any one application could manage multiple windows, and you could easily move objects, paragraphs, and words between them."

The Portland, Oregon born son of a radio repairman father and a housewife mother also worked on early incarnations of email, word processing and video teleconferences.

Engelbart electrical engineering at Oregon State University then worked at Nasa's predecessor, Naca, as an electrical engineer.

He left to pursue a doctorate at University of California, Berkeley and began working at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in the late 1950s — according to the BBC to "pursue an interest in how computers could be used to aid human cognition."

ABC News cited Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak as saying that Engelbart's contributions went far beyond the mouse.

"I have admired him so much. Everything we have in computers can be traced to his thinking. To me, he is a god. He gets recognized for the mouse, but he really did an awful lot of incredible stuff for computer interfaces and networking."

Gerda said her father died of kidney failure.