Anniversary Post: The Mother of All Demos

First Computer MouseOn this day in 1968, computer scientist Douglas Engelbart gave what came to be known as The Mother of All Demos. In this single 90-minute demonstration, he introduced the world to, well, basically all the things that distinguish the computer you are using today from the computers people were using at that time (and for a bit more than a decade after that). These include:

  • Graphics
  • Windows
  • Mouse
  • Hypertext
  • Collaborative editing
  • And quite a lot more.

It was a demonstration of his own designed “oN-Line System.” It is known as NLS. Why? Because computer scientists are cruel people. Trust me, I’ve worked with them for decades. It’s a good thing we have them working on computers, because it would be ugly if they go into politics.

Anyway, that image above is the first prototype of a mouse. You may not be able to tell, but it is one-dimensional. That is a cylinder and not a sphere underneath. But it doesn’t matter. That’s actually what I like about computer scientists as compared to programmers. The scientists are just interested in concepts. Leave the details to the programmers.

11 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: The Mother of All Demos

  1. And then, as the excellent made for TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley explained…everyone else stole everything to make modern computing accessible to the dudebros at my local community college.

    • Basically. That’s why software patents and all that are so dangerous. The only thing those people invented was the idea of the software patent.

      • Sometimes I wonder if that was necessarily a bad thing. We do need to have some kind of motivator and making money is helpful in small doses. The problem we currently have is we have a huge dose of greed and not enough of the other kinds of motivators. I blame our being lazy for that.

        • There are better systems for encouraging creative work than patents and copyright. But I’m not totally against them. I just think they are out of control. For example, how does it encourage creative work to retroactively increase copyright protection? That’s just a giveaway for the corporations. And they’ve done it twice, I think.

          I’m also not against profit. Neither was Marx. There’s always a balance between the public and the private. There has never been a pure capitalism just as there has never been a pure socialism. Both are unworkable. But here in America, most people think we do have a pure capitalism (or close as can be). And they don’t see that we have made the choice to have this kind of system. And at this point, much of it is socialism in the worst possible sense. I heard an amazing statistic: Boeing gets 12% of all the state and local welfare in this country.

          I believe in a strong safety net — a guaranteed income. But I think having active markets is really important. But when you have the kind of corporate welfare that we have, you don’t get healthy markets. And all of this is a direct consequence of having too much inequality. It creates too large a gulf in political power. We need to get the poor to vote. But I can hardly blame them for giving up. (Or us. I’m rich enough to have to pay for my own healthcare, but not nearly rich enough to not get a subsidy.)

          • Pretty much.

            The annoying part of it is trying convince voters of any of the things you said. They hear something else and cling to it. So few are open to learning something different. Add in how few people want to listen to the other side these days…and it is so disheartening.

            • “We’re right and they’re wrong” is an easy analysis. Just the same, I don’t want to fall into that trap in American politics. There really is something wrong with the Republican Party, and I think its elites are well aware of that. The problem for me is that I’m on the far left in this country. Even in the UK I would be much more mainstream. And that doesn’t speak well of what has happened to the American political system.

              • This commenting system is getting odd. First it was the endless comment box on the Brain Chemistry and now the name and email stuff is below the comment box. Are you still fussing with the programming?

                Anyway, the elected Republicans occasionally still have good ideas. But they don’t care about the truth, they don’t care about facts and they hate almost everyone. Which makes it hard to counter at the door when talking to voters. :/

                • “Brain Chemistry” had a coding error that I fixed, but only after your first comment. I don’t see a problem with this one.

                  I wish modern Republicans would admit to what it is they stand for. There are a lot of free market reforms that they will not support because some vested interest doesn’t want it. But mostly, at the federal level, Republicans seem terrified to do anything at all. Since nothing that is absolute conservative orthodoxy can be passed, better to do nothing and not have Rush Limbaugh shout at you.

                  • It is not a problem, it is just odd.

                    The federal Republicans walked themselves back in a corner-they know, because they can look at history, that their ideas are mostly hated by the average voter. They also know that the Democrats ideas are loved and can work with minor tweaks for decades. Both of these things annoy the dickens out of them. Which means, absent a huge bunch of scandals and just the right wedge issue (some variant of racism typically), they will never get into power again because they don’t have any decent ideas.

                    They also know that they, unlike the Democrats, have a problem in primaries. Their base will take them on and they may not always win but sufficient numbers do to make it next to impossible to do the responsible thing. And even if they didn’t have this problem, the responsible thing is to agree with the President who co-opts their terrible ideas and waters them down a bit but not very much. Which is something they don’t want to do because they are racist.

                    So they can do anything because they don’t have any room to move in. And no one wants to be yelled at by Rush Limbaugh. Despite Miz Molly Ivins saying it is akin to having your ankle chewed on by a newt or other slimy creature, few people enjoy being yelled at. For those that do, well he lost to the Democrat.

                    • What I don’t understand is why the Rockefeller Republicans haven’t just gone over the Democratic Party. If they did, it would be great for the nation. Then the Republican Party really could appeal to its base by becoming a complete populist party: they could start pandering to the working class. That would put some pressure on the Democrats to liberalize in terms of economic ideas. Oh! Now I see why the Rockefeller Republicans are staying in a proto-fascist party! How foolish of me to think they would be willing to save the nation if it would cost them a buck.

                    • To quote the rapper the Notorious B.I.G. (rather than the usual Notorious R.B.G.), “it’s all about the Benjamins.”

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