How a 90-minute presentation became the catalyst to the modern world of personal computing

Engelbart-1st computer

The inspiration behind the technology at your fingertips today: the Mother of All Demos


THE CHALLENGE

In the 60s, computers weren’t designed for personal use. SRI International engineer Doug Engelbart envisioned more. He believed that computers could be used as tools for collaboration and the augmentation of our collective intelligence to tackle humanity’s biggest problems. As the founder of the SRI Augmentation Research Center Lab, Engelbart and his team embarked on a mission to reinvent the human–computer relationship.

THE SOLUTION

In 1968, Engelbart sparked a revolution with a 90-minute presentation, dubbed the Mother of All Demos, unveiling for the first time how computers could be used to capture and share knowledge. Debuting unprecedented tools, including the mouse, he inspired a new world of interactive personal computing and changed the history of computing forever.


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Engelbart performed a never-before-seen look at real-time, collaborative interaction between two computer users, including showing how typing text from the stage in San Francisco could also show up simultaneously on a screen miles away at SRI headquarters.

Among the many other demos that day such as reorganizing a grocery list, Engelbart even hosted the first ever videoconferencing session. All of the technologies displayed that day were operated with an innovative point-and-click interface device, the mouse. And remember, this was all before the Internet became popular!

The Mother of All Demos became a landmark event for shifting the way people understood the concept of computers and used them in their daily lives. The event sparked the personal computer revolution, and many technologies shown during the demo influenced technological developments at companies including Apple, Microsoft, Xerox and others in the industry.

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