Douglas Engelbart : biography
Bootstrap Institute and Bootstrap Alliance
Teaming with his daughter, Christina Engelbart, in 1988 he founded the Bootstrap Institute to coalesce his ideas into a series of three-day and half-day management seminars offered at Stanford University 1989–2000. By the early 1990s there was sufficient interest among his seminar graduates to launch a collaborative implementation of his work, and the Bootstrap Alliance was formed as a non-profit home base for this effort. Although the invasion of Iraq and subsequent recession spawned a rash of belt-tightening reorganizations which drastically redirected the efforts of their alliance partners, they continued with the management seminars, consulting, and small-scale collaborations. In the mid-1990s they were awarded some DARPA funding to develop a modern user interface to Augment, called Visual AugTerm (VAT), while participating in a larger program addressing the IT requirements of the Joint Task Force.
Doug Engelbart Institute, recent work and legacy
Engelbart attended the Program for the Future 2010 Conference where hundreds of people convened at The Tech Museum in San Jose and online to engage in dialog about how to pursue his vision to augment collective intelligence.
The most complete coverage of Engelbart’s bootstrapping ideas can be found in Boosting Our Collective IQ, by Douglas C. Engelbart, 1995. This includes three of Engelbart’s key papers, edited into book form by Yuri Rubinsky and Christina Engelbart to commemorate the presentation of the 1995 SoftQuad Web Award to Doug Engelbart at the World Wide Web conference in Boston in December 1995. Only 2,000 softcover copies were printed, and 100 hardcover, numbered and signed by Engelbart and Tim Berners-Lee. Engelbart’s book is now being republished by the Doug Engelbart Institute.
Two comprehensive histories of Engelbart’s laboratory and work are in What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry by John Markoff and A Heritage of Innovation: SRI’s First Half Century by Donald Neilson. Other books on Engelbart and his laboratory include Bootstrapping: Douglas Engelbart, Coevolution, and the Origins of Personal Computing by Thierry Bardini and The Engelbart Hypothesis: Dialogs with Douglas Engelbart, by Valerie Landau and Eileen Clegg in conversation with Douglas Engelbart.. All four of these books are based on interviews with Engelbart as well as other contributors in his laboratory.
Engelbart was Founder Emeritus of the Doug Engelbart Institute, which he founded in 1988 with his daughter Christina Engelbart, who is Executive Director. The Institute promotes Engelbart’s philosophy for boosting Collective IQ—the concept of dramatically improving how we can solve important problems together—using a strategic bootstrapping approach for accelerating our progress toward that goal.
In 2005 Engelbart received a National Science Foundation grant to fund the open source HyperScope project. The Hyperscope team built a browser component using Ajax and Dynamic HTML designed to replicate Augment’s multiple viewing and jumping capabilities (linking within and across various documents). The Doug Engelbart Institute is now based at SRI International.
Engelbart served on the Advisory Boards of the University of Santa Clara Center for Science, Technology, and Society, Foresight Institute, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, The Technology Center of Silicon Valley, and The Liquid Information Company.
Historian of science Thierry Bardini argues that Engelbart’s complex personal philosophy (which drove all his research) foreshadowed the modern application of the concept of coevolution to the philosophy and use of technology. Bardini points out that Engelbart was strongly influenced by the principle of linguistic relativity developed by Benjamin Lee Whorf. Where Whorf reasoned that the sophistication of a language controls the sophistication of the thoughts that can be expressed by a speaker of that language, Engelbart reasoned that the state of our current technology controls our ability to manipulate information, and that fact in turn will control our ability to develop new, improved technologies. He thus set himself to the revolutionary task of developing computer-based technologies for manipulating information directly, and also to improve individual and group processes for knowledge-work.