Dec. 9, 1968: The Mother of All Demos

Douglas Engelbart gave an earth-shaking demo 40 years ago today.

The presentation included the debut of the computer mouse,
which Engelbart used to control an onscreen pointer in exactly the same
way we do today. For a world used to thinking of computers as
impersonal boxes that read punched cards, whir awhile, then spit out
reams of teletype paper, this kind of real-time graphical control was
amazing enough.

But Engelbart went beyond merely demonstrating a new input device — way beyond. His demo that day in San Francisco’s Brooks Hall
also premiered “what you see is what you get” editing, text and
graphics displayed on a single screen, shared-screen videoconferencing,
outlining, windows, version control, context-sensitive help and
hyperlinks. Bam!

What’s more, it was likely the first appearance of
computer-generated slides, complete with bullet lists and Engelbart
reading aloud every word onscreen. Fortunately, the proto-PowerPoint
section only made up a small fraction of his otherwise understated and
impressive tour de force. And though it took years for the industry to
catch up, many later computer scientists acknowledged their debt to