Sunday, January 04, 2009

Historical Note: 40th Anniversary of "Mother of all demos"

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Going through my thousands of unread items in my Google Reader lead me to this gem via a post in early December on CNET's Matter/Anti-Matter Blog titled the 40th Anniversary of "Mother of all demos" which points to Doug Engelbart's presentation to the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco on December 9, 1968 that i had not seen before. Called the 'Mother of all Demos' because in the 100 minute presentation Engelbart and his team show, in working form, for the very first time all of the following technologies:

* This was the public debut of the computer mouse
* Graphical user interface with point and click and menus
* Intermingling of text and graphics within a document, styling of text in a document
* Hypertext and linking between documents
* Remote collaboration plus videoconferencing

Hosted by the Science and Technology in the Making (STIM), project supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation you can see the original video on this site in two versions, one that has been edited into 35 segments and reformatted as Flash streaming video clips with a brief abstract of the subject matter treated in each segment or the full 100 minute video (scroll to bottom of that page).

The Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute's project was focused on pursuing primarily these goals (that eventually became what we know as a personal computer:

1. Improve the Effectiveness with which individuals and organizations work at intellectual tasks.
2. Develop a system oriented discipline for designing the means by which greater effectiveness is achieved.

Here are some of the highlights that i found interesting:

  • They send the video transmission to the Menlo Park labs and show the audience the 'mouse' for the first time in a public forum
  • Just like any live demo (and yes we have all experienced it!) there are some hiccups, mistyped words and 'oops' moments
  • Review of user documentation online versus printing manuals
  • How they used direct messages (yes instant DMs!) to coordinate and plan the presentation itself
  • Collaboration features with a live audio-video window insert on the same screen!
  • Keyword weighting and power of keyword searching
  • Herman Miller Design was working with the lab on designing and building the control consoles,display consoles and chairs! Designing the modern office!
  • Love the way the filming is done with the live images projected and faded on the screens. The the filming of the presentation is better then some of the lecture series you see today online that struggle to get the screen online with the presenter!

Overall a good 100 minutes spent this morning.

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