When he was just 25, Doug Engelbart had an epiphany about his life's purpose. "If you could do something to improve human capability to deal with the increasing complexity of the world," he thought, "then you'd really contribute something basic." Almost 20 years later, Engelbart unveiled the result of that idea: a graphic computer system, controlled by a special keyboard and something called a mouse, that would let people work together on documents, manipulate complex ideas, even from far-flung locales.
The idea of the graphic computer, in 1950
"It just went together within an hour or two, about what computers could do," Engelbart remembers. "Because I'd been a radar technician I knew how radar made images on the oscilloscope, and also how radar electronics could change things on the screen. I knew that if a computer could punch cards or print on paper, it could draw things on the screen."