Wednesday, October 20, 2010

History of the World Part I

As software practitioners, we are in pursuit of two things: the acquisition of skill, and the acquisition of knowledge. It is the acquisition of the latter that I want to focus on in the next series of articles – specifically history.

Many developers are deficient in the knowledge or concern of how our profession was born and how it has evolved, or why that information matters. This is, in part, due to the fact that we live in the present, and plan for the future. But, historical perspective provides us with insight that cannot be derived from the present. Studying our history provides reason and basis for the ideas, principles, techniques, and practices that have shaped this industry and craft. It also provides the context in which these concepts were incubated, developed, extended, and, in some cases, abandoned.

In this installment, I would like to introduce you to Douglas Engelbart. He, among other things, invented one of the most ubiquitous computer peripherals, the mouse. He and his team also introduced the world to hypertext and computer networking. Among his other contributions are: collaborative hypermedia, knowledge management, community networking, and organizational transformation, display editing, windows, cross-file editing, outline processing, hypermedia, and groupware. Mr. Engelbart’s biography is truly impressive, inspirational, and worth taking a few minutes to read.

On December 9, 1968, at the Fall Joint Computer Conference (FJCC) in San Francisco, he demonstrated the first computer mouse, as well as interactive text, video conferencing, teleconferencing, email, hypertext and a collaborative real-time editor. This demonstration has been posthumously named "The Mother of all Demos". The original 100-minute video of this event is part of the Engelbart Collection in Special Collections of Stanford University and can be viewed here. Enjoy.


  1. The link to "The Mother of All Demos" is broken :(

  2. The link to the demo has been fixed. I apologize for that.