Thursday, August 31, 2017
Douglas Engelbart (1925-2013), whose vision of collaboration using computer technology to help solve the urgent and complex problems of all of humanity, died on July 2, 2013. His comrades believed that his ideas were never fully realized due to his ideals and generosity of spirit. For example, he resisted patenting the "mouse" he'd invented and it eventually fell into the public domain. The robotic rigidity of institutions is also to blame -- most powerful technology companies in American relegated him to R&D. Ted Nelson, professor and inventor of the first hypertext project, delivered Engelbart's eulogy on December 9, 2013. In his tearful delivery, he said the "...real ashes to be mourned are the ashes of Doug’s great dreams and vision, that we dance around in the costume party of fonts that swept aside his ideas of structure and collaboration...Perhaps his notion of accelerating collaboration and cooperation was a pipe dream in this dirty world of organizational politics, jockeying and backstabbing and euphemizing evil." Engelbart articulated his ideas for collaboration publicly in what is known as The Mother of all Demos delivered on December 9, 1968, nearly half a century ago. Some of what he described is still in the process of being realized in commercial forms such as Skype, Google Docs, and more.