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Mouse inventor Douglas Engelbart dies aged 88

04 Jul 2013
The inventor of the mouse Douglas Engelbert has died aged 88

The inventor of the mouse, Douglas Engelbart, has died aged 88. The Stanford Research Institute (SRI) where Engelbert worked during much of his career confirmed that he passed away on 2 July.

Engelbart graduated with a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1955. He then went on to work at the SRI, where he would come to develop the mouse when working with the Augmentation Research Center (ARC) from 1959 to 1977.

Recognising the huge rise in computing that was on the cusp of changing the world, Engelbart and his team invented a machine that they patented as an "X-Y position indicator for a display system". Engelbart explained he nicknamed the device the "mouse" because a cable resembling a tail came out of its end.

Sadly for Engelbart and his colleagues, the patent for the mouse expired in 1987, just around the time the device became truly revolutionary, as businesses and homes started to be flooded with PCs and the demand for mice increased hugely.

This meant they saw little in the way of royalties for their invention. However, given that even in this era of touchscreen devices the mouse is still found on the desks of receptionists and chief executives alike, the legacy remains alive and well.

During his lifetime Engelbart received the National Medal of Technology in 2000, as well as the Lemelson-MIT Prize and the Turing Award in 1997.

The chief executive of SRI, Curtis Carlson, recognised the huge impact Engelbart had made on the world, mourning his passing in a statement on the organisation's website. “Doug was a giant who made the world a much better place and who deeply touched those of us who knew him,” he said.

“SRI was very privileged and honored to have him as one of our ‘family’. He brought tremendous value to society. We will miss his genius, warmth and charm. Doug’s legacy is immense – anyone in the world who uses a mouse or enjoys the productive benefits of a personal computer is indebted to him.”

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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