Remembering Douglas C. Engelbart, inventor of the mouse

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

Apple
The Apple Mouse, pictured here, is a distant descendent of the pioneering version created by Douglas C. Engelbart.

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. 

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.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.