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Jul-08-2013 00:56printcomments

The Computer Mouse and Genius Inventor Doug Englebart

I lived with him about two years... way before he invented "the mouse".

Dr. Doug Englebart with the mouse
Dr. Doug Englebart with the first "mouse".

January 30, 1925 - July 2, 2013 (RIP)
Photo courtesy:

(PORTLAND, OR) - Over one billion Englebart’s mouse have been sold. It was extremely disheartening to read Doug’s obituary in the New York Times. His extensive list of extreme honors such as the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT prize for invention and innovation was not a surprise to me. The rest of his list of honors is too long to print here, but it is on Wikipedia.

The listing of his diagnosis of Alzheimer's in 2007 is especially devastating, especially for a genius like him.

I met Doug in the fall of 1942. He had graduated from Franklin HS in Portland, Oregon and got to Oregon State College right afterwards.

The campus was almost devoid of males after 1942, and the fraternity houses were taken over by the College. We lived in campus club, a non-fraternity across the street from the campus.

There were about 20 of us. Some, like myself had been given deferments to complete studies in critical occupations. Mine was in chemistry. Some were HS seniors taking their senior years as college freshmen. It was a very intelligent bunch.

Doug was an electrical engineer which is/was one of the toughest on the campus. He was really one of the most studious guys I had ever met. For most of us, with the draft boards looking down our necks, there was not much boy/girl socializing.

We had to keep up our grades or the draft boards would grab us. Only the young dudes seemed to do any socializing. They were safe, at least until they were 18, when they were subject to the draft.

I finally finished for my BS in chemistry in April 1944 and volunteered for the Army. I had no other choice. After the war, I was told by my draft board that I never would have been drafted.

April 1944 was the last time I saw Doug Englebart. He must have been called up that summer and he was very lucky to get into the Navy. Many of his classmates got put into the Army and ended up at the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944-45. The Navy made him a radar technician which was a smart move for both he and the Navy.

He probably got out of the Navy in the summer of 1946 and back to Oregon State where he graduated in 1948. I didn’t know him at that time. He probably had a job waiting for him at the Ames Research Center (ARC) working for NASA.

He had heard about computers and with his knowledge of radar, he put two and two together and got about a 10. He WAS far advanced at that time for this time of electronics.

He went back to college at the University of California, Berkeley, and got a Masters degree and a Doctor of Electrical Engineering in 1955. Probably one of the first such PhD’s in the United States.

He was hired as assistant professor but left after a year to pursue his computer ideas at a research institute affiliated with Stanford University called the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). He obtained about a dozen patents related to this new field of the electronics.

In 1967, he applied for and got a patent for THE MOUSE.

He assigned the rights of the patent to SRI but, apparently, they considered it a TOY and licensed it to Apple Computers for $40,000.

He never received a cent of royalties. Apple had the moxy to foresee it’s use and value, and they made the most of it.

Doug apparently had one bad attribute. He was smarter and was at least 10 years ahead of his contemporaries. Many went to Xerox and he fell into some obscurity.

He founded Bootstrap Institute about 1990 with his daughter Christina. After this, and the international use of his mouse, he became recognized; he was given heaps of honors including the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT prize.

In December 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Technology, the highest technology award in the United States. Finally, well-deserved awards were showered on him.

Not many of us are still alive who had a close relationship with Dr. Douglas Englebart.



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