What device did Douglas Engelbart invent?


Author's Note

Our data-soaked, gadgetized world instills in us a sensation of forward movement, of evolution. But, really, that feeling derives largely from marketing: The next big chipset, the next graphics card, the next smartphone seem to represent advancement, but mostly they are refinements of a constricted, highly lucrative road map.

It's useful to remind ourselves every once in a while that we might have arrived here, near here or someplace better via other paths -- trails blazed by philosophy, or marked by scientific study of human-computer interaction. Such approaches have played a role, certainly, and an important one, but so, too, have floundering and flailing, throwing this or that against the wall and seeing if it sticks.

Engelbart and pioneers like him remind us of the transformative power of vision. Is his achievable? Years ago, I might have said no. But, if the apps, shareware and freeware available on the Web, or the open source, crowdsource and copyleft movements have taught me anything, it's that if there's a good idea, someone out there will try it, even at the risk of potential profits. The cream, or something like it, will rise to the top.

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