Bootstrap Institute
6505 Kaiser Drive
Fremont, CA 94555

Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000 19:57:14 -0500

From:   Henry van Eyken


Subject:   National Medal of Technology

It's official!

Douglas Engelbart will be awarded the 2000 National Medal of Technology by President Clinton at a black-tie, gala banquet in the National Building Museum on the evening of Friday, December 1, 2000. Other recipients of the NMT are Dean Karnen, Donald B. Keck, Robert D. Maurer, Peter Schultz, and the IBM Corporation. President Clinton will also be awarding National Medals of Science.

Related ceremonies will include a roundtable discussion between the Laureates and young people who have demonstrated an aptitude for science and engineering. This will enable young people to discuss their interests and solicite guidance from the Laureates, who are role models for America's youth. Plans are neing made for a webcast at approximately 10:45 a.m., November 30.

On Friday, December 1, at 10:30 a.m., a press roundtable will be held for both science and technology Laureates in the International Trade Center (Ronald Regan Building).

Following are the Citation and a brief biography of Doug Engelbart. In the meantime, we are awaiting an electronic reproduction of the medal as we are preparing a special home page (typo-free) for the...


Bootstrap Institute


Henry van Eyken

Contribution Category:

General Product & Process Innovation


For creating the foundations of personal computing including continuous real-time interaction based on cathode-ray tube displays and the mouse, hypertext linking, text editing, online journals, shared-screen teleconferencing, and remote collaborative work.

Brief Biography:

Dr. Engelbart, more than any other single person, set the stage for that component of the computer revolution now called personal computing. During the early 1960s, when the hallmark of computing was large mainframe computers, he correctly saw that a close, interactive, and continuous relationship between computer and its user would yield enormous benefit in making that person motre efficient and effective. Nor was it all vision. During that time he perfected the notions of on-line, real-time systems that caused machines to deliver to their users what they wanted when they wanted it, all interactively. This work came to define the functionality of personal computing even though some time would pass before the personal computer itself would be affordable for an individual user. As Director of a laboratory at Stanford Research Institute that grew to a staff of 40 to 50 members, he and they created many of the concepts and tools of personal computing that we take for granted over thirty years later. The concepts of point-and-click and hypertext are just two that have come to define the ease with which we now interact with computers. Over two dozen of the properties and capabilities of present computers were demonstrated by the mid-1970s (see Comprehensive Description).

As important as these contributions were, they were but stepping stones toward Dr. Engelbart's ultimate goal of elevating the competency of an entire organization through the augmentation of its members through distributed computing systems. Most of the software innovations were embedded in an integrated groupware system he called NLS, one of the first interactibve systems anywhere. All this was made possible for the first time at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in December 1968 in San Fransisco. On a huge screen at the Conference, he jointly edited a document (two cursors) with a collaborator 40 miles away at SRI in Menlo Park.

Through video windows on each workstation, they had a full personal and computer-based interaction. His conviction about distributed computer systems led to his group being the second node on the fledling ARPANET and later the Internet. His Network Information Center was the entryway for anyone getting an address for these new networks for over twenty years.

This early establishment of what personal and collaborative computing should be helped create a prescription of what for how computers were to evolve. These directions included hardware, such as cathode display tubes and the mouse, which he invented, and network interfaces. They included software directions such as windowing hypermedia and hypertext shared-screen teleconferencing, and, importantly, the concepts and methods of on-line text and graphics processing. These foundations made it clear that computers would have this new role of continuous, proximal support of an individual, working either alone or, through networking, as part of a group. At least four of Dr. Engelbart's staff transferred to Xerox Park where bit-map displays, icons and the desktop metaphor with its overlapping windows were created. When Steve Jobs of fledgling Apple Computer saw all this, he understood immediately the ingredients of what came to be the MacIntosh. SRI has issued licences for the mouse to both Xerox and Apple Computer.

So, the enablement of Moore's Law and this personalized functionality for computers opened the doors to one of the most dramatic sector growths in history. That Dr. Engelbart forsaw this kind of impact is illustrated by this quote from his 1970-paper: "There will emerge a new marketplace, representing fantastc wealth in commodities of knowledge, service, information, processing, storage, ...." This anticipation of the way computers should and would ultimately serve individuals clearly helped establish the primacy of the United States in the information era and it still enjoys the competitive advantage of that accelerated growth.

The National Medal of Technology is "to recognize technological innovators who have made lasting contributions to enhancing America's competitiveness and standard of living" and whose solid science results in "commercially successful products and services." This could not be a more apt description of Dr. Engelbart and his life's work.

(to be continued on the site ...)