Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Modern Computing Began 40 Years Ago Today

Modern computers all utilize the same user paradigms:  interactive computing, mouse, windows, hyperlinks, teleconferencing, etc.  Many people consider Xerox Parc to be the nest in which most of these concepts were born.  That is, afterall, where Steve Jobs got his inspiration for the Macintosh.  It is not where they were first conceived or even accomplished.  All of these were first demonstrated 40 years ago today by Douglas Engelbart of Stanford Research Institute (SRI). On december 9, 1968 he demonstrated to a crowd of 1,000 many of the things that make up modern computers.  Some pictures of the event can be seen here.  SRI is hosting an event today honoring the event.


  1. Hi Steve,
    I would like to offer a correction regarding mouse, interactive computing, and hyperlinks. These concepts were being developed for the US Navy in 1957 - 51 years ago. The trackball (inverted mouse) was an input device for the Naval Tactical Data System - display console AN/SYA-1 and successors. These RADAR consoles were refined over the years. When I last tested this software, the AN/UYA-4 display was the most common in the fleet. Over the life of my affiliation with the USN, I used SYA-1, SYA-4, and UYA-4. All featured trackballs.
    You can see a UYA-4 console with trackball on page 46 of this document: http://www.firecontrolman.com/Bibliography/FC,%20VOL%2005%2014102.pdf
    This was interactive computing. Also, one could say a form of hyperlnks existed. If one used the trackball and "assert" button on a computer-generated symbol, one would hyperlink to symbol details.
    The AN/SYA-1 is discussed here: http://www.janes.com/articles/Janes-Naval-Weapon-Systems/NTDS-ACDS-AN-SYQ-20-United-States.html
    Unfortunately it is not easy to dig up photos of those consoles.

  2. Thanks for the information Jake.  I didn't know that.  I had only ever heard of the work going on at SRI.