Tales of inventing the future

I’ve been coming across videos lately that get more into the creative ideas that inspired research projects which were out of this world for their time, and give me feelings of inadequacy even today.

Two anniversaries happened in November 2008. One was the 40th anniversary of the idea of the Dynabook. The other was the 40th anniversary of Douglas Engelbart’s NLS demo.

Alan Kay – the Dynabook concept, 1968

Alan Kay gave a historical background on the ideas that led to the Dynabook concept. It’s 1 hour, 44 minutes.

Douglas Engelbart – NLS demo, 1968

Here is a collection of video clips of the 40th anniversary event for the NLS demo, held by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). The original members of the NLS development team were in attendance to talk about the experience of building this amazing system. They give more details about how it was constructed. One of Engelbart’s daughters, Christina, talks about the conceptual framework her father implemented through the process of building NLS–incremental improvement of the group and the system. NLS was intended to increase the working power of professional groups through a concept Engelbart called “augmentation”, augmenting the human intellect. His goals were similar to Licklider’s concept of human-computer symbiosis.

My thanks go to Rosemary Simpson of Brown University for providing these links. This is great stuff.

In an interview on Nerd TV a few years ago Douglas Engelbart talked about the struggle he went through to implement his vision. It’s a sad tale, with occasional triumphs. It’s good to see his efforts getting public recognition in the present day.

You can learn more about Engelbart’s work at the Doug Engelbart Institute. What I think is of particular interest is the library section. You can view the complete 1968 demo there, along with the papers he wrote. It’s interesting to note when the papers were written, because his concepts of what was possible with the system he envisioned will sound familiar to people who are accustomed to today’s computer technology. Considering what was the norm in computing at the time this is amazing.

Related post: Great moments in modern computer history

2 thoughts on “Tales of inventing the future

  1. Pingback: Does computer science have a future? « Tekkie

  2. Pingback: Doug Engelbart has passed away | Tekkie

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