Though trackpads and touchscreens are slowly replacing the industrious little device, we’ve all used a mouse at one point or another, and they can found in tens of thousands of offices and homes across the globe, having served as a vital bit of modern computing for decades. Last night, the device’s inventor, Doug Engelbart, passed away at the age of 88 in his sleep.
The information came from Engelbart’s daughter, who reported his passing in an email to the Computer History Museum located in California, the same state where the inventor worked at a research institute on a variety of other technologies used in modern times, including early forms of word processors, video teleconferencing, and email.
You can see the mouse for yourself in the image above, with the device being little more than a chunk of wood, a cable/connector, and a couple wheels inside that are made of metal. The invention took place in the 1960s, and it would be a while before it was adopted for widespread use with computers. Engelbart’s background consisted of electrical engineering, which he studied at Oregon State University, then going on to earn his doctorate degree in the same field from the University of California at Berkeley.
His career was kicked off by a stint during World War II as a radar technician, eventually leading to an electrical engineering position with Naca, which later became NASA. His focus eventually zeroed in on the mixture of human cognition and computers, taking him to the Stanford Research Institute. Not stopping there, however, he eventually started his own laboratory called the Augmentation Research Center.
Unfortunately for Engelbart, his patent on the mouse expired in 1987, and it was never widely used before that, having been licensed by the Stanford Research Institute to Apple for what was a decent sum at the time – 1983 – of $40,000. Since then, according to the BBC, it is believed that at least one billion mouses have been sold over the years.
Regardless, his work is said to have been before its time, and has found implementation in a lot of the modern technology we use now. He demonstrated the first-ever video teleconference at the same time he demonstrated the mouse, and also contributed to ARPANet, which eventually led to the creation of the Internet.