Father of the mouse dies aged 88

Inventor of the mouse passes away

The creator of the first mouse and pioneer of 20th Century computer science, has passed away aged 88-years-old.

Douglas Englebart was an early innovator of the modern computer model we so often take for granted today, and introduced the first prototype mouse to the world at 'the mother of all demos'.

Advancing personal computing

The now infamous in computer science presentation took place in 1968, sparking a reimagining of the way computers could evolve. The computer model of the sixties was operated using punch cards, and Englebart's vision portrayed at that San Francisco conference would inspire a generation of scientists in the advancement of personal computing.

Alan Kay, a computer scientist and co-founder of Xerox PARC who attended the presentation later said: "The demo was one of the greatest experiences of my life. To me, it was Moses opening the Red Sea. It reset the whole conception of what was reasonable to think about in personal computing."

During the presentation Englebart sat at a computer keyboard operating a mouse, the interactive action was projected onto a screen and demonstrated a host of original ideas. Englebart was using multiple windows, outline processing, shared screen teleconferencing and hypertext; all of which would not make it into the mainstream market for another two decades.

The first mouse

Englebart created the mouse in the mid-sixties when he was Director of Augmentation Research Centre at Stanford Research Institute in California.

The original prototype of the mouse had a wire coming out of the front, though this was quickly changed to the back to get it out of the way. It was a simple mechanical device with two discs mounted upright at the bottom in a wooden case, that could be tilted or rocked to draw horizontal or vertical lines.

The mouse was created to be used with graphical user interface (GUI), which was not patented by Englebart at the time because software was not considered patentable. However, describing the invention he did gain a patent for, the "X-Y position indicator for a display system", his patent application revealed it was "nicknamed the mouse because the tail came out of the end."

Douglas Englebart was born 30 January 1925; died 2 July 2013. During his lifetime he was awarded: The Turing Award by the Association of Computing Machinery and the $500,000 MIT Lemelson prize in 1997, the von Neumann Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 1998, and in 2000 he was awarded the National Medal of Technology in the US when he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Adrian Mursec, senior developer at theEword said: "The late 20th Century was an era of great progress in computer science, a lot of which stemmed from Englebart's research and inventions in the sixties.

"Creating the mouse moved personal computing onto a whole new level that hadn't been imagined before, we take it for granted today because it has become an integral part of technology."