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Notable Oregonians: Douglas C. Engelbart - Inventor

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Douglas C. Engelbart

Douglas C. Engelbart, 1925-2013

Douglas C. Engelbart was born on January 30, 1925, on a small farm near Portland, Oregon. After graduating high school in 1942, Engelbart studied electrical engineering at Oregon State College (University) in Corvallis. Service in World War II sent him to the Phillipines as an electronic/radar technician for two years. Following the war, he returned to Oregon State College, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in 1948. Engelbart received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley in 1955 and taught there briefly as an acting assistant professor.

 

Soon he accepted a position at the Stanford Research Institute where he put his visionary talents to work on numerous inventions that computer users now instantly recognize. He founded the Augmentation Research Center and was the primary designer and developer of the oN-Line System (NLS). In what has been described as the "mother of all demos," Engelbart showcased many of his inventions in 1968 to a group of 1,000 computer professionals. His demo featured the first public display of the "X-Y position indicator for a display system" (the ancestor to the modern computer mouse). He and his colleagues also introduced video conferencing, teleconferencing, e-mail, hypertext, and other innovations to the stunned audience.

 

Ironically, Engelbart never received any royalties for inventing the computer mouse. His patent expired in 1987, shortly before the personal computer revolution made the mouse an indispensable input device. Moreover, subsequent mice used different mechanisms that did not infringe on his original patent.

Engelbart was an emeritus director of the Doug Engelbart Institute, which he founded in 1988. The institute is located in Menlo Park, California and promotes Engelbart's philosophy, the concept of Bootstrapping, Networked Information Centers, and Collective IQ.

 

Engelbart authored over 25 publication and received more than 20 patents. He was honored by numerous organizations over the years for his pioneering work in human-computer interaction. Oregon State University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1994. He was the recipient of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, the world's largest single prize for invention and innovation, in 1997. President Bill Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Technology in 2000. And, the New Media Consortium recognized Engelbart as an NMC Fellow for his lifetime of achievements in 2009.

 

Engelbart died July 2, 2013 in California.

 

(Sources: Lemelson-MIT Program | Bootstrap Institute) Revised 7/2013

 

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