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Doug Engelbart

Doug was my friend and mentor. His augmentation framework, which was presented in his 1962 paper, still informs and inspires what I do.

“We need to improve how we augment a group’s (small, large, internal, global etc.) capability to approach urgent, complex problems to gain more rapid and better comprehension (which can be defined as more thorough and more critical) which result in speedier and better solutions (more contextual, longer lasting, cheaper, more equitable etc.). And furthermore, we must improve our improvement process (as individuals and groups).”

Douglas Engelbart

My friend Fleur and I made a brief web based documentary with him. None of the originally uploaded videos are playable, so I have uploaded them to YouTube. To me, this is an example of the brittleness of ‘rich media’ and a reminder how important it is to have our knowledge also stored in robust media, such as text.

He told me how it all started:

…the world is very complex if you are trying figure out what you would fix, etc., and how you’ll go up trying to fix it. And one Saturday I – God – the world is so damn complex it’s hard to figure out.

And that’s what then dawned on me that, oh, the very thing: It’s very complex. It’s getting more complex than ever at a more rapid rate that these problems we’re facing have to be dealt with collectively. And our collective ability to deal with complex urgent problems isn’t increasing at anything like the parent rate that it’s going to be that the problems are.

So if I could contribute as much as possible, so how–generally speaking–mankind can get more capable in dealing with complex urgent problems collectively, then that would be a terrific professional goal. So that’s… It was 49 years ago. And that’s been ever since.

Douglas Engelbart

His Wikipedia entry starts with:

Douglas Carl Engelbart (January 30, 1925 – July 2, 2013) was an American engineer and inventor, and an early computer and Internet pioneer. He is best known for his work on founding the field of human–computer interaction, particularly while at his Augmentation Research Center Lab in SRI International, which resulted in creation of the computer mouse, and the development of hypertext, networked computers, and precursors to graphical user interfaces. These were demonstrated at The Mother of All Demos in 1968. Engelbart’s law, the observation that the intrinsic rate of human performance is exponential, is named after him.


He wrote the following in an email September 2003, a statement which still provides me with joy and energy to continue the work on the future of text:

I honestly think that you are the first person I know that is expressing the kind of appreciation for the special role which IT can (no, will) play in reshaping the way we can symbolize basic concepts to elevate further the power that conditioned humans can derive from their genetic sensory, perceptual and cognitive capabilities.

Douglas Engelbart

And finally, Doug after look at ‘Hyperwords’ the system I developed at the time, a forerunner of Liquid:

Doug Engelbart’s official website is

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