Yesterday’s Innovations Are Today’s Reality. Meet Douglas Englebart, the Next Hidden Hero

Photo of Rafał Sałak

Rafał Sałak

Updated Sep 20, 2022 • 4 min read
Social Sharing Image-1

Netguru presents the fourth story in the Hidden Heroes series, a publishing initiative promoting under-represented pioneers from software history. Authored by Steven Johnson.

In today's reality, we have a propensity to write, speak, and tell stories about those working on huge innovations. But, as the world accelerates, perhaps we should pay attention to individuals who have affected our lives but have not received adequate credit. Douglas Engelbart is the man responsible for our computers and mouse. For many years, the world ignored him; now, he needs to be heard more than ever. Meet Netguru's next Hidden Hero, as written by Steven Johnson.

Warsaw/July 28, 2022. Creativity cannot be calculated. It's like a wave that comes and goes. Only a handful of us can harness the wave to build something extraordinary that will influence future generations. Did Douglas Engelbart imagine in 1945 that his invention would grow so huge that it would be in most households worldwide years later?

"The world we are used to living in today will not be the same in a few years," said Steven Johnson, television host, TED Speaker, and author of the Hidden Heroes series.

"It’s the circle of change. Innovations will take over the place of old solutions, new ideas will become tomorrow's way of living. When the world is changing so fast, stories from the past should guide us to a better future. By not paying enough attention to past inventors, we’re somehow neglecting their impact. Douglas Englebart dedicated his life to making computers more accessible to humans. We should not forget him."

"Marginalized and forgotten for many years, Engelbart played a massive role in making software part of everyday life. So we must pay tribute to what he has done,"

— Johnson said.

Douglas Englebart's story is the fourth in a series of eight planned for this year. He is best known for his work on founding the field of human-computer interaction, particularly while at his Augmentation Research Center Lab at SRI International, which resulted in the creation of the computer mouse and the development of hypertext, networked computers, and precursors to graphical user interfaces.

Click here to read Douglas's story

"When we innovate, we often focus on procedures, ideas, and codes. However, we seem to be ignoring the hardware: from touchpads to keyboards, mice, and even screens, "says Radek Zaleski, Partner at Netguru, the publisher of Hidden Heroes. "We may become accustomed to such things in our everyday lives, but we frequently forget that our job, particularly in the IT business, would be difficult to complete."

The Hidden Heroes initiative began to commemorate individuals who have vanished into the shadows of time. Without Douglas and his dedication to the tech world and his sacrifices, the tech sector would not be what it is today. So, rather than focusing on today's invention, even if it is world-changing, we should in the first place look at those who shaped our life, work.”

"Engelbart was an odd duck, top to bottom," Stewart Brand says now.

"He was obsessed and driven and single-minded — and he just lasered through a whole lot of things with that."

But we’re all living in Douglas Engelbart’s world now.

The Hidden Heroes initiative aims to uncover and explore untold stories.

Each month, one Hidden Heroes story is published and made freely available on the Hidden Heroes page

The first piece was on Pattie Maes, the Belgian-born computer scientist and MIT professor who helped establish the groundwork for today's online social networks.

Then, Netguru published the story of Radia Perlman, known as the mother of the internet, and her work on network stability and the internet in general. Finally, the third story pays tribute to Lou Montulli, the inventor of cookies.

Steven Johnson and Netguru believe that Hidden Heroes will help people better understand our society and connect the past with the future to inspire future generations of innovators, developers, and software engineers.

Photo of Rafał Sałak

More posts by this author

Rafał Sałak

Comms Team Lead
A tribute to people who shaped technology  Authored by Steven Johnson     MEET HIDDEN HEROES

We're Netguru

At Netguru we specialize in designing, building, shipping and scaling beautiful, usable products with blazing-fast efficiency.

Let's talk business