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Partial Guide to the Douglas C. Engelbart Papers, 1953-1998
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Resources

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Engelbart, Douglas C. Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1953-1998
    Collection number: M0638
    Creator: Engelbart, Douglas C.
    Extent: 383 linear ft.
    Repository: Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
    Abstract: This collection documents that activities of Douglas C. Engelbart, a computer scientist whose pioneering work in the 1950s and 1960s (first at SRI International, later at Tymshare, Inc.) led to the development of the interactive personal computer. Most of the publications in this collection were produced while Engelbart was at SRI. Includes Professional papers, including correspondence, research proposals, technical reports, notes, journals, 3 cassette tapes, 11 films and 6 video tape copies of same.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions

    The processed portion of the collection, including everything described in the content listing, is open for research. The unprocessed portion of the collection is closed until processing can be completed.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.


    Gift of Douglas C. Engelbart, 1986, 1988, 1991 and 1998.

    Preferred Citation:

    Douglas C. Engelbart Papers. M0638. Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.


    Born January 30, 1925.
    In the late 1940s, Douglas Engelbart was stationed in the Philippines when he read Vannevar Bush's "As We May Think" in a Red Cross library. He became an early believer in Bush's idea of a machine that would aid human cognition. Later, he worked at Ames aeronautical lab, and developed the idea that would form the basis of today's computer interfaces.
    In the early 1960s, Engelbart began the Augmentation Research Centre (ARC), a development environment at the Stanford Research Institute. Here, he and his colleagues (William K. English and John F. Rulifson) created the On-Line System (NLS), the world's first implementation of what was to be called hypertext. Yet this was only a small part of what ARC was about. As he states in "Working Together," Engelbart was particularity concerned with "asynchronous collaboration among teams distributed geographically" (245). This endeavour is part of the study of Computer Supported Co-operative Work (CSCW); software which supports this goal is often called groupware.
    "Augmentation not automation" was the slogan, the goal being the enhancement of human abilities through computer technology. The key tools that NLS provided were:
    outline editors for idea development hypertext linking tele-conferencing word processing e-mail user configurability and programmability
    The development of these required the creation of:
    the mouse pointing device for on-screen selection a one-hand chording device for keyboard entry a full windowing software environment on-line help systems the concept of consistency in user interfaces
    Itemizing these accomplishments using today's terminology emphasizes their detachment from one another. However, NLS was an integrated environment for natural idea processing. The emphasis was on a visual environment--a revolutionary idea at a time when most people (even programmers) had no direct contact with a computer. Input was by punched cards and output by paper tape.
    Engelbart's work directly influenced the research at Xerox's PARC, which in turn was the inspiration for Apple Computers. Ted Nelson cites him as a major influence. In 1991, Engelbart and his colleagues were given the ACM Software System Award for their work on NLS.
    Douglas Engelbart's patent for the mouse is only a representation of his pioneering working designing modern interactive computer environments. Engelbart was born and grew up near Portland, Oregon. He served in the Navy as an electronics technician during World War II, and received his B.S. from Oregon State University. After working for NASA's Ames Research Laboratory, he received a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. He then joined the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), earning a number of patents related to computer components.
    A main concern for Engelbert was how the computer could be used as a useful tool in tomorrow's office. While at SRI, he developed a hypermedia groupware system called NLS (oN-Line System). NLS utilized two-dimensional computerized text editing, and the mouse, used to position a pointer into text, was a critical component. During a 1968 demonstration, Engelbart first introduced NLS--this was the world debut of the mouse, hypermedia, and on-screen video teleconferencing. His project became the second host on Arpanet, predecessor of the Internet.
    In the 1970s and 1980s, Engelbart was a Senior Scientist at Tymshare, Inc., later acquired by McDonnell-Douglas. In 1989, he founded The Bootstrap Institute, which promotes the development of collective IQ through worldwide computer networks.

    Scope and Content

    Professional papers, including correspondence, research proposals, technical reports, notes, journals, 3 cassette tapes, 11 films and 6 video tape copies of same. Accession 1998-094 (249 linear ft.) has not yet been processed.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Fein, Louis.
    Irby, Charles H.
    American Federation of Information Processing Societies.
    Augmentation Research Center.
    IRE Professional Group on Electronic Computers (PGEC).
    Network Information Center.
    On Line System.
    SRI Augmented Human Intellect Program.
    SRI International.
    Stanford Research Institute.
    Stanford University Seminar on Human Communication v. Computers.
    Tymshare, Inc.
    United States. Air Force. Office of Scientific Research.l.
    Computer engineering.
    Computer industry--Santa Clara County (CA)--History.
    Science and Industry--California--Santa Clara County.
    Motion pictures.
    Video tapes.

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