Doug Engelbart is the man behind some of the computer’s most recognizable features — the mouse, the hyperlink, video teleconferencing — but his roots are rural. Growing up on a small farm outside Portland, Ore., Engelbart was light years away from any technological revolution, instead channeling his creative energy into more innocent endeavors, like tearing apart gunny sacks to weave his own tree-climbing rope.
After obtaining his Ph.D. and half a dozen patents from Berkeley in 1955, Engelbart eventually established his own lab, the Augmentation Research Center (ARC). His pioneering vision and his belief in the force of “collective IQ” alienated some partners, but attracted others like the Dept. of Defense, which selected Engelbart’s lab as one of the 13 original colonies of the all-important ARPANET — the precursor to the internet.
In 1968, Engelbart exhibited the “mother of all demos” to a thrilled audience at a national computer conference, debuting the mouse, hypermedia and video conferencing all at once. Because of inventions like these, Engelbart is often remembered as the person who personalized the computer.
By Lauren Clason