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Computer Trailblazer Douglas Engelbart Receives Half-Million Dollars for Invention and Innovation

NEW YORK, NY (April 9, 1997) — Computer pioneer Douglas Engelbart of Atherton, CA has been named recipient of the 1997 Lemelson-MIT Prize of $500,000 by the Lemelson-MIT Awards Program, administered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Engelbart's groundbreaking inventions are generally credited withthe creation of collaborative computing, hypertext and community networking systems and have launched an entire technology industry.

The announcement was made today at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City by Professor Lester C. Thurow, internationally renowned economist of MIT's Sloan School of Management and chairman of the Lemelson-MIT Prize Board, which oversees the selection process. Engelbart will be honored at a ceremony the evening of April 10 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (Washington, DC) for his contributions to American invention and innovation.

Independent inventor Dr. Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy, established the Lemelson-MIT Awards Program at MIT in 1994 to recognize the nation's most talented inventors and to promote positive role models for American youngsters. The Program's $500,000 Prize celebrates excellence in creativity, invention and innovation.

"His work in designing a better human-to-computer interface helped start the personal computer revolution. His exploration of computing as a communications tool anticipated and helped shape the current Internet revolution. Inside the technology community he enjoys an enormous reputation, but the general public is only now beginning to discover the magnitude of his contribution to the Information Age." said Charles M. Vest, president of MIT.

Thurow calls Engelbart a "true visionary " for his pioneering works that enable users to navigate, share and retrieve information from computers and allow several people to collaborate at the same time.

Sun Microsystems' CEO, President and Chairman of the Board Scott McNealy commented, "Sun Microsystems applauds Doug Engelbart for winning the 1997 Lemelson-MIT Prize. Doug pioneered network computing technologies when it was not popular to do so in the 60s and 70s. His vision, courage and tenacity to open, non proprietary interfaces continues to contribute to every man, woman and child having access to the collective wisdom of the planet that resides on the network."

"We at Netscape are delighted to see Doug so beautifully recognized for his contributions and his vision", said Martin Haeberli, Director of Technology for Netscape Communications. "Doug's deep thinking, foresight, passion, persistence, and insight created a context that made possible many of the new ways that computer-mediated collaboration and computer systems transform individual and organizational performance. Yet Doug remains at once incredibly low-key, modest, and unassuming in his continued pursuit of his goals — to make it possible for people and teams, small as well as global, to dramatically improve their effectiveness and results."

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Commenting on his half-million dollar prize, Engelbart said, "It would be wonderful if I can inspire others, who are struggling to realize their dreams, to say 'if this country kid could do it, let me keep slogging away'."

Engelbart began his explorations into the augmentation of human intellect through computers as early as the 1950s, years before desktop computing and personal computers became a reality. In the 1960s he created the computer "mouse" and later received a patent for it in 1970 (X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System). Engelbart's team made history in 1968 at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco, when they demonstrated their fully-integrated two-way computer/video teleconference, anticipating today's "multimedia revolution" by decades.

Throughout the 1960s and '70s, his lab pioneered elaborate communications systems, including the NLS oNLine System and the Network Information Center for ARPAnet, the primary research network in the United States in the 1970s and '80s and precursor of the current Internet. In 1989 Engelbart founded, and directs, the Bootstrap Institute, where he works closely with the industry and government on practical applications of his work that will lead the industry into the 21st Century.

Other technological firsts include the creation of hypermedia, multiple-window screens, multi-tool integration, and online publishing. Additionally, the creation of groupware allows several users in different locations to work on the same document at the same time. Engelbart also foresaw the sharing of documents in cyberspace, video conferencing and electronic mail systems. These discoveries accelerated the evolution of the computer industry and set the stage for the development of more advanced technology that enables people to use computers more efficiently and effectively.

Today, anyone who uses a computer is enjoying the benefits of Engelbart's creations. Since its patent in 1970, more than 100 million computer "mice" have been sold by Logitech Inc., the world leader in computer mice manufacturing.

"Engelbart's contributions to the future of computing extend beyond his revolutionary innovations," said Lemelson. "His achievements signal the importance of vision and determination that will inspire future generations of innovators."

Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Lemelson-MIT Program was established in 1994 by the late independent inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy. The Program celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual awards including the world's largest for invention, the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. The Program encourages young Americans to pursue careers in the fields of science, engineering, technology and entrepreneurship. The Lemelson-MIT Program is funded by the Lemelson Foundation, which supports other invention initiatives at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Hampshire College, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and the University of Nevada, Reno.

Last year's winners, Dr. Stanley N. Cohen and Dr. Herbert W. Boyer are credited with launching the biotechnology industry through three seminal patents on gene cloning. The first winner of the Lemelson-MIT Prize was William Bolander, an automotive engineer whose technological innovations have greatly improved both passenger safety and automotive performance. Also this year, the Awards Program presented an honorary Lifetime Achievement Award for career-long accomplishments to Dr. Gertrude Elion, Nobel Prize winner in medicine, co-creator of two of the first successful drugs to combat acute leukemia, and holder of 45 patents for inventing numerous lifesaving drugs from 1944 to 1983.

Read more about Douglas Engelbart.

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