Remembering Douglas C. Engelbart, inventor of the mouse

Douglas C. Engelbart, the inventor of the computer mouse, died Wednesday. 

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    The Apple Mouse, pictured here, is a distant descendent of the pioneering version created by Douglas C. Engelbart.
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Doug C. Engelbart, the man credited with inventing the computer mouse, died Wednesday. 

Mr. Engelbart, it's worth noting, was a prolific innovator – he did important work on video conferencing and computer displays, and helped create an early iteration of an online library. But it is to the computer mouse that Engelbart's name remains inextricably linked. In 1964, while employed at Stanford Research International, or SRI, Engelbart attended a digital conference, and began pondering how best to move a cursor across the screen. 

"When he returned to work he gave a copy of a sketch to William English, a collaborator and mechanical engineer at SRI, who with the aid of a draftsman fashioned a pine case to hold the mechanical contents," writes John Markoff of the New York Times. 

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By 1967, he had filed a patent for "an X-Y position indicator control for movement by the hand over any surface to move a cursor over the display on a cathode ray tube, the indicator control generating signals indicating its position to cause a cursor to be displayed on the tube at the corresponding position." The modern mouse, in other words. The patent was granted in 1970, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek

The mouse was further refined by teams at Xerox, and then popularized by Apple and others. In 2004, the year that Logitech announced that the one billionth mouse had recently been sold, Engelbert sat for an interview with BusinessWeek. 

"Isn't that unbelievable?" he told BusinessWeek. "My first thought was that you'd think someone would have come up with a more appropriately dignified name for it by now." 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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