Some of you might have heard that Doug Engelbart died on July 2. Englebart was the father of interactive computing and the intellectual inspiration for my work over the past 30 years. In the post-WWII period he was the first to realize that computing could ‘augment the intellect’ and he began working to demonstrate how to achieve this vision. His1962 paper “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework” was always required reading in my HCI seminar because not only does he lay out his vision for improving the human condition through computing but he presents ideas that led to word processing and collaborative work. Englebart is best known for inventing the mouse and for his demo at the Joint Computer Conference in 1968 that demonstrated online networking (NLS) that included hypertext, word processing, and the mouse. Through his bootstrapping institute he aimed to augment our collective intellect through collaborative technologies. Although he recognized the importance of collaborative technologies for all organizations, he was particularly interested in developing ways that professional societies, community groups, and other socially responsible organizations could leverage computing to improve their impact and effect. At the 1996 ASIS&T Conference he made a plea for ASIS&T and other professional societies to increase collaboration to achieve common scholarly goals, a theme that resonated with the strong digital library movement underway at that time.
His influence on information science is paramount because he gave us a practical (tractable) path toward an ideal. Engelbart stands with Shannon, Bush, and Simon as inspirations for information science. He inspired a generation of information scientists who work in HCI, HCIR, and CSCW to empower and augment human capabilities. Most of all, Doug Engelbart was a kind and humble human being who would take the time to talk to young scholars, who accepted the trials as well as the blessings of life and who inspired many of us to keep our focus on why we invest so much in information and technology—to help people live productive and meaningful lives.
ASIS&T President, 2010
Obituary from The Washington Post: