Douglas Engelbart was an American engineer who had a love for computers. He was particularly fascinated with the challenges of having a human be able to interact with the computer. Born in 1925 as the middle of three children in Portland, OR, he lived in the country for most of his childhood. His father passed away when he was 8 and this greatly affected him and his studies. He worked as a radar technician in the Philippines during the war and then began to focus on how his work could begin to improve human life.
Here is an in-depth look at the inventions of Douglas Engelbart.
1. The Computer Mouse
One of the biggest hurdles that needed to be overcome in early home computing was how to navigate through the programs. Some old school home computer users still use the shift-Tab commands a lot because this was the only way to navigate around the first computers. Engelbart knew there had to be a better way, so as he tinkered around with the idea of navigation, he realized that having an independent pointer would make things a lot easier. That led to the development of the first computer mouse.
You see hypertext every day, even if you don’t really know it. Today hypertext refers to the content that is displayed on your screen that includes a link within the text to other text that can be immediately accessed. Sometimes it is called an “anchor link” or a “hyperlink” as well. Engelbart used a word processing demo to demonstrate the benefits of hypertext in 1968 and the world was forever changed. By 1977, hypermedia had been developed and the foundation for the world wide web was born.
3. Bitmap Displays
When you look at a computer screen, you’re not actually looking at one large image. You’re looking at several million tiny images, depending on your screen’s size, and these tiny images are all working together to create what you are seeing right now. These images correspond to what is being displayed in the computer’s memory and these bits are translated into the visual pixels that create the final image that is seen.
4. Engelbart’s Law
One of the most known contributions that Engelbart brought to human knowledge is what we call “Engelbart’s Law.” It basically says that the rate of human performance is exponential. In practical terms, it means that humans can always get a little bit better at anything they choose to do. It resides entirely within the human mind and is a concept that is sometimes referred to as bootstrapping. In other words, people can start getting better at the practice of just getting better.
5. Collective IQ
Engelbart also noticed that when people work together, then tend to be smarter than if they are working alone. He called this phenomenon the Collective IQ and he called this nature part of the unique condition of the social aspects of humanity.
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