I received an offline note with URLs for more info. John Markoff in
the _NY Times_ said that Engelbart got his basic insight in 1950: (01)
> Douglas C. Engelbart was 25, just engaged to be married and thinking about
> his future when he had an epiphany in 1950 that would change the world...
> he saw himself sitting in front of a large computer screen full of different
> symbols — an image most likely derived from his work on radar consoles while
> in the Navy after World War II. The screen, he thought, would serve as a
> for a workstation that would organize all the information and communications
> for a given project.
> When and under what circumstances the term “the mouse” arose is hard to pin
> but one hardware designer, Roger Bates, ... said the name was a logical
> of the term then used for the cursor on a screen: CAT. Mr. Bates did not
> what CAT stood for, but it seemed to all that the cursor was chasing their
> tailed desktop device.
> In a presentation at a conference in Philadelphia in February 1960, [Doug E.]
> the industrial process of continually shrinking the size of computer
> Speaking of the future, he said, “Boy, are there going to be some surprises
>over there.” (02)
> If you attempt to make sense of Engelbart's design by drawing correspondences
> present-day systems, you will miss the point, because our present-day systems
> embody Engelbart's intent. Engelbart hated our present-day systems.
> If you truly want to understand NLS, you have to forget today. Forget
> think you know about computers. Forget that you think you know what a
> Go back to 1962. And then read his intent. (03)
See http://www.dougengelbart.org/pubs/augment-3906.html (04)
His 1962 proposal has many quotable insights, but no single quotation
captures the full impact. Here are a few that are worth exploring: (05)
DCE in 1962
> The Whorfian hypothesis states that the world view of a culture is limited by
> structure of the language which that culture uses. But there seems to be
> factor to consider in the evolution of language and human reasoning ability.
> We offer the following [Neo-Whorfian] hypothesis: Both the language used by
> a culture, and the capability for effective intellectual activity are
> affected during their evolution by the means by which individuals control
> the external manipulation of symbols...
> But at the level of the capability hierarchy where we wish to work, it seems
> useful to us to distinguish several different types of structuring -- even
> though each type is fundamentally a structuring of the basic physical
> Tentatively we have isolated five such types--although we are not sure how
> we shall ultimately want to use in considering the problem of augmenting the
> human intellect, nor how we might divide and subdivide these different
> of physical-process structuring. We use the terms "mental structuring",
> "concept structuring", "symbol structuring", "process structuring," and
> "physical structuring." ...
> For our present purpose, it is irrelevant to worry over what the fundamental
> mental "things" being structured are, or what mechanisms are accomplishing
> the structuring or making use of what has been structured. We feel reasonably
> safe in assuming that learning involves some kind of meaningful organization
> within the brain, and that whatever is so organized or structured represents
> the operating model of the individual's universe to the mental mechanisms
> that derive his behavior...
> A natural language provides its user with a ready made structure of concepts
> that establishes a basic mental structure, and that allows relatively
> general-purpose concept structuring. Our concept of language as one of the
> basic means for augmenting the human intellect embraces all of the concept
> structuring which the human may make use of...
> A given structure of concepts can be represented by any of an infinite number
> of different symbol structures, some of which would be much better than others
> for enabling the human perceptual and cognitive apparatus to search out and
> comprehend the conceptual matter of significance and/or interest to the human.
> For instance, a concept structure involving many numerical data would
> be much better represented with Arabic rather than Roman numerals and quite
> likely a graphic structure would be better than a tabular structure.
> These new ways of working are basically available with today's technology--
> we have but to free ourselves from some of our limiting views and begin
> experimenting with compatible sets of structure forms and processes for
> human concepts, human symbols, and machine symbols. (06)
Toward the end, Engelbart discusses the article "As we may think," which
Vannevar Bush published in 1945. His concluding paragraph: (07)
> This is an open plea to researchers and to those who ultimately motivate,
> or direct them, to turn serious attention toward the possibility of evolving
> a dynamic discipline that can treat the problem of improving intellectual
> effectiveness in a total sense. This discipline should aim at producing a
> cycle of improvements -- increased understanding of the problem, improved
> developing new augmentation systems, and improved augmentation systems that
> serve the world's problem solvers in general and this discipline's workers in
> After all, we spend great sums for disciplines aimed at understanding and
> nuclear power. Why not consider developing a discipline aimed at
> harnessing "neural power?" In the long run, the power of the human intellect
> really much the more important of the two. (08)
This vision is far more important than the WIMPy interface, which is
just one tiny step toward the goal of *understanding*. Politicians
and terrorists around the world use WIMPy Smartphones with Facebook
and Twitter. But they could gain more understanding by just sitting
down and reading a book on old-fashioned paper. (09)
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