Mother of all Demos

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 02008 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
link Categories: Long Term Thinking, Technology   chat 0 Comments


JD Leahy pointed out that Boing Boing has posted about the Mother Of All Demos, and it occurred to me that it was worth noting here as well. One of the lesser known facts about this demo was that it was our own Stewart Brand who filmed this demo back in 01968. The number of innovations that were demonstrated on this day included a mouse input device, remote computing, visual interface with white background, object based programming, etc is just staggering when you consider the date it was done. We attribute most of these designs to much later stages in silicon valley companies, when in fact many of them just happened to be at this demo and spent the next two decades implementing them!

  • Stewart Brand

    I only filmed the bits from the Menlo Park (SRI) end, and they appeared on Doug’s screen as part of the demo—the hand moving the world’s first mouse, the chord keyboard, Doug’s real display, Jeff showing the system guide, Biill collaborating, and the Menlo crew.

    The guy wrangling the whole operation was Bill English, on a direct line to Doug’s ear, so he could tell him when to stall while a bug was fixed in real time or the system could catch up, talk to my ear about what to shoot next, etc. It was ballet on a high wire with no net, beyond the screaming edge of what the technology could handle, for an hour and half with no pause or visible breakdown. The demo had been scripted but not rehearsed, so we were all improvising along with the event as it developed. Everybody had so much familiarity and skill with the new tools, they could wing it live. The NLS system was built for teamwork; the demo exemplified that as well.

    When it was done, we all sighed with relief at the SRI end. We had no idea the audience in San Francisco was giving Doug a standing ovation that wouldn’t stop. It still hasn’t stopped.

  • J.L. Johnson

    Fantastic! It’s like learning that the Romans had invented gunpowder!
    A very good example of how “progress” consists of good ideas that must often wait for enabling technolgy and markets to catch up.

  • http://cognections.typepad.com/lifeblog charlie

    It’s always fascinating to reach back to a documented event or demonstration of a pivotal moment in human history of invention.

    Thinking forward, 40 years forward, what will we look at today with the same awe?


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