Recommended Readings on Doug Engelbart’s Ideas

Earlier this month, someone asked me for the best resources to learn about Doug Engelbart’s work. Doug didn’t publish prolifically, but he wrote quite a bit, and some of his papers are must-read classics. You can find most of his writing and many other great resources at the Doug Engelbart Institute, which is curated by his daughter, Christina.

Start with his classic paper, “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”, which he published in 1962.

For Doug’s own historical overview of his work (published in 1985), read, “Workstation History and the Augmented Knowledge Workshop.”

For a deeper understanding of his conceptual framework for high-performance teams, knowledge work, and the role of technology, read, “Knowledge-Domain Interoperability and an Open Hyperdocument System” (1990) and “Toward High-Performance Organizations: A Strategic Role for Groupware” (1992).

I’ve written a lot about Doug and his work over the years, and it represents only a fraction of what I learned from him. For a high-level overview of his work and why I think he’s so important, start with my tribute to him when he passed away in 2013 (“Inventing the mouse was the least of it”) as well as my more personal tribute.

Brad Neuberg also wrote an excellent overview of Doug’s ideas. There are also short video clips of me, Brad, Jon Cheyer, and Adam Cheyer at a memorial service for Doug that I think are worth watching.

Luisa Beck did a great podcast earlier this year for 99% Invisible on Doug’s design philosophy, featuring Christina and Larry Tesler.

For more down-and-dirty essays about and inspired by Doug’s thinking, read:

For more on Dynamic Knowledge Repositories (DKRs) and Networked Improvement Communities (NICs), read:

Finally, for a detailed repository of notes and recommendations from when I first started working with Doug in 2002, see this list. Sadly, many of the links are broken, but most are probably findable via search.

If you have others to recommend and share, please post in the comments below!

Doug Engelbart Video Tributes

This past July, shortly after Doug Engelbart passed away, his friends organized a moving memorial for him. There were many wonderful tributes, and a television journalist also did some short video interviews with people who knew him well. If you’re interested in getting a tiny taste of who Doug was, the videos — especially the tributes — are a great source for that.

Here’s my interview (~6 minutes):

Here’s what Brad Neuberg (~7 minutes) and Jon Cheyer (~6 minutes), my HyperScope teammates, said:

Here’s what Adam Cheyer said (~8 minutes):

You can view the whole list here.

Augment Flashback

This past Tuesday night, we had an Augment jam session. Here I am using a thirty year old Chording Keyset to play with a forty year old piece of software.    (KC0)    (KC1)

Puts a chill down your spine. Thanks to John Deneen for taking the pictures.    (KC2)

The original Augment server is still running on TOPS-20, which is running on top of a PDP-10 emulator written by Ken Harrenstien called called KLH10. All of this is currently running on a Solaris box sitting in Doug Engelbart‘s office at Logitech. Doug often shakes his head with amusement when he explains that the current system running on emulation is many, many, many times faster than the original.    (KC3)

The client software we’re using in the picture is Java Augterm, written by Howard Palmer. It uses Augment’s “dumb” protocol — VAT0 — to communicate with the server. There’s a smarter protocol called VAT1 that has some more advanced capabilities.    (KC4)

We don’t know the exact date of the keyset (yet), but it probably dates back to the 1970s. It’s still in fantastic condition, and it feels great. Jon Cheyer‘s friend, Brian, has been building USB adaptors for these keysets. Jon wrote the keyset driver in Java, which is part of the Augterm software itself.    (KC5)

We’ll be doing another jam session this Saturday at SuperHappyDevHouse, which is open to everyone, so come join the fun!    (KC6)

Squeezebox Digital Music Player

Jon Cheyer pointed me to his new favorite toy, Squeezebox, from SlimDevices. It’s a small digital music player — comes in wired and wireless versions — that plays a variety of audio formats: MP3, WMA, even Ogg Vorbis and SHOUTcast. Squeezebox gets the music off one of your computers which runs the Squeezebox server software. The software is written in Perl and is Open Source. The device itself looks nice, and has both digital and audio speaker outputs. At $280 for the wireless version, the price is a bit high, but as Jon points out, these folks are doing it Open Source with all the pluses associated with that. If that’s your cup of tea, it’s worth the premium.    (I8I)

Grass Roots Peer Review

We had a Bay Area gathering of the Blue Oxen Associates Collaboration Collaboratory at Applewood’s Pizza in Menlo Park, California. Nine of us showed up, and we had a great time mixing and chatting.    (3P)

At one point in the evening, Brian Lincoln told Jon Cheyer his idea of Grass Roots Peer Review. They talked for a bit, and then Jon drew me into the conversation. Before we knew it, we were all discussing the idea,    (3Q)

Eventually, we started exploring a possible experiment that the collaboratory could perform. I posted a synopsis of that discussion on the tools-yak@collab list.    (3R)