The Mother of all Demos

April 4, 2017 | | Comments Off on The Mother of all Demos

Engelbart, Christina and the Bootstrap Institute. Digital Image. “Original Announcement of the 1968 Demo.” MouseSite. 1968. March 16, 2017.

In 1965, Doug Engelbart (see tab on People of the Mouse– and his team of 17 other researchers showcased and debuted the mouse at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California [1]. Most important of the technological inventions  introduced at this event was the computer mouse, debuted in a 90-minute presentation attended by some 1,000 computer professionals [2]. This presentation would later become known as the “Mother of all demos” [3]. The course demonstrated much more than just the capabilities of the mouse, but like the goal of the “Augmentation project” introduced the mouse as part of an integral piece of this greater system. “In the course of 90 minutes, they displayed a remote network, shared-screen collaboration, video conferencing, hypertext, interactive text editing, and the computer mouse.” [4]. The language that Engelbart used demonstrated the importance of a device that capitalized on advances in graphical user interface devises. He introduced the computer mouse as a spectacle that would revolutionize the abilities of a graphical user interface devices while facilitating ease and accuracy of the device. Such was the marvel of the mouse. He began, “if you had a workstation at your disposal all day that was perfectly responsible…or responsive” [5].

The demo functioned as the introduction of new ideas in computing capabilities. He exhibited the mouse not as a “how-to-guide” but as an exhibition of the idea of a precise x,y coordinator [6]. Like stated before, the demonstrated showed how the mouse was superior to all the other devices that the research team pit it against, but it also showed other technological innovations, such as hypertext, object addressing and dynamic file-linking [7]. Additionally, two people demonstrated communicating over an audio and video network from two different physical sites [8]. Engelbart admitted in the demo that he was not sure why they called it the mouse, only that they started calling it that and never changed it [9]. There are claims that someone on the team, though no no one remembers who, said that the early prototyped looked like a one eared-mouse [10].

The Mother of all Demos demonstrated not only the capabilities of the computer mouse but outlined a standard of technology that would pave the way for the modern technological world. The household name of  “mouse” as referring to the computer mouse makes it clear that Engelbart’s invention and its important role in technological application as our ways of displaying and calculating research becomes more advanced.

In 1967 when the Stanford Research Institute applied for the patent on the mouse they called it the “x,y position indicator for a display system” [11]. The patent was approved and rewarded in 1970 [12]. It took three years, but Engelbart’s mouse was recognized as a technology tool that changed the way that computer people could navigate computer graphic screens.

For a more complete picture of the mouse, make sure to check out our documentary located here:

With a better understanding of the history of the mouse, you may find it interesting to return to the antecedent page, or progress on to the fascinating information on the future of the computer mouse.



  1. Mousesite. Accessed April 12,2017.
  2. Atkinson, Paul. “The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men: The Computer Mouse in the History of Computing.” Design Issues 23, no. 3 (Summer 2007): 49-61.
  3. 1. Edwards, Benji. “The Computer Mouse Turns 40.” Macworld, December 9, 2008. Accessed February 20, 2017. 40.html
  4. Atkinson, Paul. “The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men: The Computer Mouse in the History of Computing.” Design Issues 23, no. 3 (Summer 2007): 49-61.
  5. Ibid, 47.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Mousesite. Accessed April 12,2017.
  10. Atkinson, Paul. “The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men: The Computer Mouse in the History of Computing.” Design Issues 23, no. 3 (Summer 2007): 47.
  11. Living History: The Doug Engelbart Archive. Doug Engelbart Institute. Accessed February 20, 2017.
  12. Ibid.