Author: DCE
Created: Thu 5 Dec 1985 00:32:06 GMT+00:00
Modified: Thu 5 Dec 1985 00:32:35 GMT+00:00
Workstation History
and the
Augmented Knowledge Workshop
Douglas C. Engelbart
McDonnell Douglas Corporation
4-Dec-85 17:38 (AUGMENT,101931,)

First published in Proceedings of the 1986 ACM Conference on the History of Personal Workstations (HPW'86), January 9, 1986, pp 73–83. (Citation#24).
Available Here: permalink | HyperScope(?) | Printer-Friendly PDF
Republished in A history of personal workstations, 1988, Adele Goldberg [Ed.], pp 185–248.
Available Here: Printer-Friendly PDF*
See also Dr. Engelbart's talk at the conference.

Introduction 1

The story of my involvement with on-line workstations begins in early 1951, with a vision and a life-time professional commitment. Over thirty-four years of pursuit have created a lot of personal history, and the object of this historical exercise, the workstation, occupies a unique place in it.1a

For me, a workstation is the portal into a person's "Augmented Knowledge Workshop" -- the place in which he finds the data and tools with which he does his knowledge work, and through which he collaborates with similarly equipped workers. And further, I consider that the large system of concepts, skills, knowledge, methods, etc. on the human side of the workstation has to be taken into account, in a balanced way, when pursuing increased human effectiveness. So, my workstation-history story embraces a rather large sphere.1b

The task of writing an historical piece is unfamiliar enough to cause me difficulty by itself, but the associated stirring of old records and old memories has added near overwhelming burden -- dreams, events, people, stresses, pleasures, disappointments, the firsts and the failures. Now, what from all of this -- and how to organize it -- will make an appropriate "history" paper? 1c

I could provide a solid measure of objective reporting -- events and dates, etc. Regarding the general environment that is relevant to the workstation topic, I have been an involved observer of related computer history since 1951. I watched and experienced the supportive hardware, languages and architecture evolve, witnessed the people and efforts that brought timesharing into being, and was even more closely involved with the emergence of computer networks. Through all of this, I was wholly focused on what these things could do for people at workstations. And then there was office automation and personal computers: you don't have to be an old guy to have watched these emerge, but I'm sure they looked different to me than to most.1d

I could also provide lots of objective reporting about the events and dates associated with the things I have caused or had a direct hand in. There seems to be a lot there that is quite relevant to this "history of the workstation" theme. It was dusty, laborious work, this process of brainstorming for candidates, culling and ordering and trying to describe them in some reasonable sequence and context.1e

But what I came to realize is that there is one, clearly dominant factor that underlies essentially every cause for any uniqueness that I might list for historical record. It isn't a technology, it isn't a science, and it isn't a marketing or business model. And I am going to give it dominant coverage in this paper.1f

As explained below, it is what I call my "Framework." It is based upon an intuitive conviction, emplanted in my head (apparently permanently) over thirty years ago, that the gains in human knowledge-work capability which we will achieve by properly harnessing this new technology will be very large. Metaphorically, I see the augmented organization or institution of the future as changing, not as an organism merely to be a bigger and faster snail, but to achieve such new levels of sensory capability, speed, power and coordination as to become a new species -- a cat. 1g

Based upon this conviction about huge potential gains for mankind, my Framework explains for me generally where such gains are going to come from, and provides strategic principles that can help guide a conscious pursuit of these gains.1h

Genesis 2

I was several years out of school, possessing a B.S. in EE and two years' experience during WWII (halfway through college) as an electronic technician. I was doing odd-job electrical engineering work at Ames Research Laboratory in Mountain View, California, with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, forerunner of NASA). For several months I had been devoting most of my spare time to searching for professional goals; for some reason I wanted to invest the rest of my heretofore aimless career toward making the most difference in improving the lot of the human race.2a

I had initially dashed off in many fanciful directions, but yet managed enough interludes of reasonably sober thinking to build up some useful, strategic generalizations:2b

Re-treading myself professionally, to become proficient and then extraordinarily productive in some new field wasn't worth considering without a significantly attractive scenario, embedded in a reasonably structured strategic framework.2b1

The high-payoff scenarios all seemed to involve creating or joining something that, however disguised, would essentially be a crusade.2b2

Crusades have many strikes against them at the outset. E.g.: they don't connect to a normal source of government or business revenue; they don't have nice organizational frameworks -- you can't go out on the streets and expect to find financial, production, or marketing vice presidents; even if you accomplished the sweeping change that was the ultimate objective, chances are that in this very complex world, the side effects might be bad enough to make you wish you hadn't; etc.2b3

Suddenly, up through all of this delightful, youthful abstraction bobbed the following clear realization: 2c

The complexity of the human situation was steadily increasing. Not only that, but its rate of increase was increasing.2c1

Along with the increasing complexity had come a general increase in the urgency associated with the more critical problems.2c2

If one invented a measure for each of these -- complexity and urgency -- then for a given problem, the product of its complexity measure times its urgency measure would represent a fair measure of the difficulty mankind would find in dealing with that problem.2c3

FLASH-1: The difficulty of mankind's problems was increasing at a greater rate than our ability to cope. (We are in trouble.) 2c4

FLASH-2: Boosting mankind's ability to deal with complex, urgent problems would be an attractive candidate as an arena in which a young person might try to "make the most difference." 2c5

Yes, but there's that question of what does the young electrical engineer do about it? Retread for role as educator, research psychologist, legislator, ... ? Is there any handle there that an electrical engineer could ...2c6

FLASH-3: Ahah -- graphic vision surges forth of me sitting at a large CRT console, working in ways that are rapidly evolving in front of my eyes (beginning from memories of the radar-screen consoles I used to service). 2c7

Well, the imagery of FLASH-3 evolved within a few days to include mixed text and graphic portrayals on the CRT, and on to extensions of the symbology and methodology that we humans could employ to do our heavy thinking; and also, images of other people at consoles attached to the same computer complex, simultaneously working in a collaboration mode that would be much closer and more effective than we had ever been able to accomplish.2d

Within weeks I had committed my career to "augmenting the human intellect." In a few months, I left the NACA and enrolled as a graduate student at UC Berkeley, where Professor Paul Morton had started a computer science activity (although it would be many years before universities began calling it that), and was several years along in developing the CALDIC.2e

Within a few years I had to accept the fact that research on any kind of interactive computer applications just wouldn't provide me with a program acceptable to the university community for PhD and later faculty pursuit. So, I settled for something else, got my PhD and went to Stanford Research Institute (SRI) where I hoped ultimately to promote support for an augmentation program. 2f

Framework 3

That was 1957. By 1959 I was lucky enough to get a small grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR, from Harold Wooster and Rowena Swanson) which carried me for several years -- not enough for my full-time work, but by 1960 SRI began pitching in the difference.3a

It was a remarkably slow and sweaty work: I first tried to find close relevance within established disciplines. For a while I thought that the emergent AI field might provide me with an overlap of mutual interest. But in each case I found that the people I would talk with would immediately translate my admittedly strange (for the times) statements of purpose and possibility into their own discipline's framework -- and when re-phrased and discussed from those other perceptions, the "augmentation" pictures were remarkably pallid and limited compared to the images that were driving me.3b

For example, I gave a paper in 1960 at the annual meeting of the American Documentation Institute, outlining the probable effects of future personal-support use of computers, and how this would change the role of their future systems and also provide valuable possibilities for a more effective role for the documentation and information specialists <Pub-60-SpecCons>.3b1

No response at all at the meeting; one reviewer gave a very ho-hum description as ... the discussion of a (yet another) personal retrieval system. Later, at lunch during a visit to a high-caliber research outfit, an information-retrieval researcher got very hot under the collar because I wouldn't accept his perception that all that the personal-use augmentation support I was projecting amounted to, pure and simple, was a matter of information retrieval -- and why didn't I just join their forefront problem pursuits and stop setting myself apart.3b2

Then I discovered a great little RAND report written by Kennedy and Putt <Ref-A> which described my situation marvelously and recommended a solution. Their thesis was that when launching a project of inter- or new-discipline nature, the researcher would encounter consistent problems in approaching people in established disciplines -- they wouldn't perceive your formulations and goals as relevant, they would become disputative on the apparent basis that your positions were contrary to "accepted" knowledge or methods, etc.3c

The trouble, said these authors, was that each established discipline has its own "conceptual framework." The enculturation of young professionals with their discipline's framework begins in their first year of professional school. Without such a framework, tailored for the goals, values and general environment of its respective discipline, there could be no effective, collaborative work. Furthermore, if such a conceptual framework did not already exist for a new type of research, then before effective research should be attempted, an appropriate, unique framework needs to be created. They called this framework-creation process the "Search Phase".3d

So, I realized that I had to develop an appropriate conceptual framework for the augmentation pursuit that I was hooked on. That search phase was not only very sweaty, but very lonely. In 1962, I published an SRI Report entitled, "Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework," <Rpt-62J>. With the considerable help of Rowena Swanson, this was condensed into a chapter of a book published in 1963 <Pub-63-Frame> 3e

I can appreciate that these framework documents appear to many others as unuseably general and vague, but for me the concepts, principles and strategies embodied in that framework look better and better every year.3f

The genesis of most of what was/is unique about the products of the augmentation work can be traced back to this framework.3g

Program Support 4

I submitted many proposals before getting support to pursue the augmentation program outlined in the framework report. Among the stream of politely phrased regrets, there was one which in contrast to today's environment can provide useful perspective on the environment of 1961.4a

Four high-quality civilian experts had been enlisted by one agency as a site-visit team; brain researcher, psychologist, computer expert -- and for me it was a very enjoyable day's dialog. But the later letter from the agency informed me regretfully that [paraphrased] "... since your interesting research would require exceptionally advanced programming support, and since your Palo Alto area is so far from the centers of computer expertise, we don't think that you could staff your project adequately ...". 4a1

When J. C. R. Licklider came from Cambridge to take over ARPA's newly formed Information Processing Techniques Office in late 1962, I was figuratively standing at the door with the Conceptual Framework report and a proposal. There the unlucky fellow was, having advertised that "man computer symbiosis," computer time-sharing, man-computer interface etc. were the new directions -- how could he in reasonable consistency turn this down, even if it was way out there in Menlo Park.4b

Lick moved very swiftly; by early '63 we had a project. But whereas I had proposed using a local computer and building an interactive workstation, Lick asked us instead to connect a display to the System Development Corporation's (SDC's) AN/FSQ32 computer, on site in Santa Monica, to do our experimenting under the Q32's projected new time-sharing system. (Converting the Q32 to be a time-shared machine was SDC's IPTO project.)4c

Later that year, our project was modified to include an online data link from Menlo Park to Santa Monica, with a CDC 160A mini-computer at our end for a communication manager, supporting our small-display workstation. For various reasons, not uncommon in pioneering ventures, that first year was very unproductive relative to the purposes and plan of our project. Lick was willing to put some more support into the direct goal (more or less as originally proposed), but the support level he could offer wasn't enough to pay for both a small research staff and some interactive computer support.4d

Mind you, the CDC 160A, which was the only commercially suitable mini-computer that we knew of, even though having only 8K of 12-bit words, and running at about 6 microseconds per instruction, cost well over $100K (1963 dollars). Paper tape in and out; if the system crashed, you had to load the application program from paper tape, and the most recent dump of your working file (paper tape), before you could continue. A crude, industry-standard Flexowriter (online typewriter) could be driven; otherwise it was paper-tape in and out.4e

What saved my program from extinction then was arrival of an out-of-the-blue support offer from Bob Taylor who at that time was a psychologist working at NASA Headquarters (then in Washington, D.C.). I had visited him months before, leaving copies of the Framework report and our proposal, and I had been unaware that meanwhile he had been seeking funds and a contracting channel to provide some support. The combined ARPA and NASA support enabled us to equip ourselves and begin developing Version 1 of what evolved into the NLS and AUGMENT systems.4f

Paul Fuhrmeister, and later Eugene Gribble of NASA's Langley Research Center, had to stick out their necks as successive heads of Langley's large computational division to support the direction and supervise NASA's support for our program, which continued several years after Taylor left NASA to join ARPA's IPTO office.4g

Our ARPA support grew and was fostered by Lick's successors -- Ivan Sutherland, Bob Taylor and Larry Roberts. Meanwhile, the Air Force's Rome Air Development Center, at Rome, New York, began to supply supporting funds. By 1967, it was recognized that the respective contributions from ARPA, NASA and RADC represented significant parts of a coordinated program, and the other agencies began funneling their funds through RADC, which served for many years both with monitoring and managing our contracts, and providing their own significant share of support funds. Duane Stone and John McNamara provided strong support and contract liaison from RADC.4h

NASA support ended by 1969, and ARPA and RADC provided significant support until 1977, although from 1974 the support became ever more for supporting applications and developments for other organizations for targets formulated by others (e.g. the National Software Works) -- and the continuing pursuit of augmentation along my strategic vector virtually stopped.4i

The Augmentation Research Center 5

An historically important organizational cluster emerged at Stanford Research Institute in the sixties, peaked about 1974, and was scattered in 1977 -- with a small core carrying forth in a commercial (and then industrial) environment to the present.5a

It grew by ones and twos from 1963, as it collected "permanent" members from the SRI technical staff, and recruited new ones from the outside. By '69 I believe we were about 18 strong; and this grew steadily until by '76 we totalled about 45. In 1973 we made two explicit sub-groups, one headed by Dick Watson doing development of software (and some hardware), and one headed by Jim Norton handling operations and applications support.5b

SRI was organized by divisions, each containing a group of laboratories: the hierarchy being formed according to the associated disciplines. ARC grew to laboratory size and status, but it became something of a problem for SRI.5c

Other laboratories (at least in science and engineering) operated more or less as a "farmers' market," where small and changing clusters of researchers promoted and conducted research projects as a loose federation. The management structure, budgeting, accounting and financing for the Institute had evolved to support this kind of business.5d

But ARC was driven by a coherent, long-term pursuit. This involved the continuing evolution of an ever-larger and more sophisticated system of hardware and software. It also came to involve delivering solid support service to outside clients to provide meaningful environments for learning about the all-important co-evolution processes in human organizations (human system & tool system).5e

It didn't seem unreasonable to me to pursue this course: things similar and on a grander scale are common for other researchers. E.g., it is taken for granted for funding agencies to build and operate accellerators and observatories in support of research in nuclear physics and astronomy -- or to outfit ships and airplanes to support research expeditions. But whatever my perception, there were some significant problems and stresses for which our over-all environment didn't have effective ways to cope.5f

In the particular dynamics involved here, there were probably seven relevant parties: me; the ARC staff; other SRI researchers; SRI management and administration; ARC's sponsors; ARC's utility-service clients; and other groups of researchers outside of SRI.5g

It would be an interesting historical study to try to understand the diversity of perception that must have existed among this set of players. What did the different parties perceive for the future of workstations, for the range of function and application that would come about, for the systems architectures and standards that must emerge, and for the impact on the organizations that learned how to harness these most successfully?5h

Even as a central party in what happened, I've not understood the dynamics. But I am pretty sure that disparities among the perceptions of all of the above parties had a major part in what to me was the "great collapse of SRI-ARC." Even if I had done everything right over the years (a laughable hypothesis), it is now fairly clear to me that it isn't the market's fault if someone fails in trying to sell it something that it isn't ready for. In other words, I can't blame those other groups. (Which of course makes for a personal problem, since during those times of black discouragement when one wants desperately to blame someone, there is only one candidate -- that guy at the head of the list).5i

In 1977, SRI judged it better to move our large-system development and external-service activities out from the research institute environment and into a suitable commercial environment. They advertised, entertained prospective bidders, made a selection, and negotiated a transfer of the business to TYMSHARE, Inc., of Cupertino, California. The system was renamed AUGMENT, and marketed as part of TYMSHARE's integrated Office Automation services. In 1984, McDonnell Douglas Corporation acquired Tymshare, and the small AUGMENT business is now operated as the Augmentation Systems Division of the Computer Systems Company within the MDC Information Systems Group.5j

A Chronology of Events 6

1962 6a

  • launched a long-term R&D program with the following basic Framework Principles (see <Rpt-62J>): 6a1
  • There are many inventions, skills, methods, working conventions, organizational modes, etc. which have been integrated into the human's knowledge-work environment to "augment" his basic, inherited, biological capabilities. Let a working assemblage of all of these be called an Augmentation System; my Framework considers this whole system to be a valid object of study and improvement.6a1a

    I broke the many parts of the Augmentation System into two main sub-systems: one contained all of the hardware, software and other artifacts -- the Tool System; and all the rest of it I called the Human System. Note that the Human System contains our natural languages, and the conceptualizations and formalisms of every discipline: an overwhelming network of invention. (Sometimes, in the early years, I called these the Service System and the User System).6a1b

    The emergent information technologies promised such startling innovation in the Tool System that, according to my Framework, most of the Human System elements that are involved in our knowledge work are likely to be up for improvement or replacement. And the Framework further predicted very large improvements in human knowledge-work capability as a result -- after we have gone through a few generations of evolution.6a1c

    The challenging strategic question for me was: how best to invest whatever resources are available in a manner that best serves the evolution toward truly high performance by our knowledge organizations?6a1d

    One answer: begin consciously scouting for elements in our Human System that are candidates for being changed as a means of better harnessing the technology toward our human ends.6a1e

    This led directly to such things as our structured-text, with its links and views, and also to the mouse and the keyset.6a1e1

    "Bootstrap" leverage was another answer. Look for the innovations that will boost not only our regular productive capability, but will add as much as possible to our capability to further improve our Augmentation System.6a1f

    This kept me focused on documents -- which carry the knowledge, plans, arguments, etc. that are critical to helping us better climb the evolutionary hill. It also very directly pointed to the importance of developing improved support for collaboration among distributed workers; and from there to community support, etc.6a1f1

    The whole Augmented Knowledge Workshop concept emerged from the Bootstrap strategy -- working toward coherent, integrated access to an open-ended, evolving collection of resources and people. And doing this in a way that best enables evolutionary freedom of parts of the whole system without being unnecessarily anchored by the needs of other parts. From this arose such things as the Procedure Call Protocol, the application-indpendent User Interface System, the Network Virtual Terminal, etc.6a1f2

    But read on ...6a1g

1963 6b

  • developed the chord keyset as a one-handed alternative for character input in an interactive environment. See <Rpt-65C> and <Pub-67-DispSel> [see also <Figure-1>, <Figure-6>, and <Figure-7>]. 6b1
  • I participated in the ARPA-sponsored "summer study group" that kicked off Project MAC at MIT. Memories: 6b2
  • Wrote a project memo about the dichotomy between "User System" and "Service System." Essentials are described in <Rpt-65C>, and the expanded dichotomy recurs as for instance in <Pub-73-AKW>, <Pub-78-IntEvolOAS> and <Pub-82-HiPerfKW>.6b2a

    Had my turn to address the whole group (50 or so people); not much reaction, but I do remember the group hoot when I said that we'd all be seeking to boost response time for many man-computer interactions down to at least a quarter of a second before the returns began to diminish. 6b2b

  • tried unsuccessfully to develop a workable system using a long-distance data link from Menlo Park to Santa Monica, with the SDC Q32 as a time-sharing host, and a CDC 160A as local communication manager and display driver.6b3

1964 6c

  • made explicit strategic decision to bypass the online typewriter and go directly to display workstations. In spite of most other online developers working with typewriters, I felt that the much higher "augmentation potential" of displays warranted early pursuit, and figured that cost would surely come down in a few years. Keep in mind that CRT workstations were very expensive then -- they weren't a consumer product by any means. The single, large-CRT workstation we attached to the CDC-3100 that year probably cost us over $100,000, and required a lot of custom work on our part. [But we have always kept an access mode open for "dumb terminals" and "glass teletypewriters," which can elicit as much service as possible within their limitations.]6c1
  • moved to stand-alone CDC 160A; paper-tape I/O to and from a Flexowriter paper-tape typewriter; first, primitive version of our online, structured-file editing. Had a simple, batch system, too: type in correction directions on a paper-tape-punching Flexowriter; feed that paper tape into the 160-A for pre-processing; results and the file to be corrected transferred via mag tape to SRI central processor (Burroughs 220, I think); processed results brought back for post-processing and printing on the 160A.6c2

1965 6d

  • developed the mouse as part of an explicit search for optimum screen-selection techniques in association with our online-application framework. See <Pub-67-DispSel>6d1
  • Figure 1. CDC3100 workstation at which we experimented with selection devices (here testing early-prototype mouse with auxillary left-handed input device).

    Figure 2. CDC3100 workstation at which we experimented with selection devices (here testing the "Graficon" selection device).
  • moved NLS to a stand-alone CDC-3100, with online disk pack, 16K of 24-bit memory, line printer, paper-tape and punched-card I/O, custom built display. Full structured files, with in-file addressing and uniform text- and structure-manipulation commands.6d2
  • Published <Rpt-62J>, which included the following: 6d3
  • Discussion of how the computer can give aid to the basic communication processes between the human and his external environment (which environment of course includes his kit of computer tools). Clear forerunner of our later User Interface System.6d3a

    Uses example of introducing a chord keyset into a user's environment to bring out specific examples of the NEED-POSSIBILITY REVERBERATION phenomena which was introduced in 1962, <Rpt-62J>, and which is a basic part of all my subsequent strategic thinking.6d3b

    Extensive discussion of USER-SYSTEM, SERVICE-SYSTEM DICHOTOMY, including the characteristics of research in each domain. (CO-EVOLUTION without yet naming it such.)6d3c

    Detailed description of the earliest version of our later FLTS (oFf-Line Text System), and what eventually became our DEX System (Deferred EXecution). Working at a Model-33 Teletype, which makes a punched-tape record of all that is typed. Escape and Command codes embedded anywhere in the text could cause the later "batch" process to correct any previous error or omission, including those in any prior commands. The Model-33 had only one case of alphabetic characters; this process enabled me to designate cases so that the later, processed printout on a two-case Flexowriter (paper-tape driven) would come out with proper alphabetic cases.6d3d

    (I made myself write most of that report this way. And my wife made me move out into the garage to do it because the Model-33 was so noisy. I remember the extra problem of typing with cold fingers.) 6d3d1

  • Showed real time movie of NLS to ARPA IPTO Principal Investigators at our May 16-17 meeting at MIT. Simple, structure-text manipulations, with very fast concurrent control (mouse and keyset), and very fast computer response (stand-alone CDC-3100). Illustrated the basic difference in perspective between our approach and the prevailing concepts of "time-shared computer support." At that evening's cocktail hour, Bob Taylor told me, "The trouble with you, Doug, is that you don't think big enough." 6d4
  • Well, after he dragged out of me a description of what I'd really like, he encouraged me to formulate a proposal for it -- a multi-user laboratory, based on a time-shared machine, to get on with real bootstrapping.6d4a


  • all source-code development, maintenance and documentation now fully moved into the NLS environment (providing natural and powerful support for structured programming).6e1
  • began planning for move to time shared environment;6e2


  • at Spring meeting of ARPA Principal Investigators, in Ann Arbor, during session kicking off ARPA's newly revealed Network development project, I volunteered to develop and operate a Network Information Center (NIC) -- as a special, prototype support service for the network-connected community of ARPA-IPTO researchers.6f1
  • developed our first explicitly separated command processor (I used the term "control" then, instead of "command"), supported with our "Control Meta-Language," a separate command-description, compileable language. Cf. Branch 4c and Fig. 9 of <Pub-68-ResCen>.6f2
  • developed our MOL 940, a Machine Oriented Language and compiler for the SDS 940.6f3
  • equipped a meeting room with specially-built tables, video hookup, and computer controls for real-time support of meetings with our CDC-3100 version of NLS. (Photo and description in <Rpt-68D> and in <Ref-B>.) 6f4
  • Over twenty people could participate, each had full view of a nearby video screen; each could pick up a mouse to control a specially shaped "participant's cursor" so all could see what he was pointing at; one master control station provided discussion-recorder control for accessing, flexible viewing, and modification of project documents, agendas, formulation of measures to act upon, etc.6f4a

    We used this support system on 12-13 October, 1967, for a progress-review meeting with our research sponsors: Bob Taylor and Barry Wessler from ARPA, Fred Dion and Dean Bergstrom from RADC, and Gene Gribble from NASA. 6f4b

    Figure 3. 1967 multi-CRT conference room. Seated are Don Andrews, Dave Hopper, Bill English, Doug, and Barry Wesler.


  • NLS by now had a full set of basic features that have since characterized it and AUGMENT (its commercial successor). E.g.: full-screen, integrated outline and text processing; in-file addressing; in-file and cross-file text or structure manipulation by address; basic repertoire of view-control commands; content filtering; generalized, computer-executable citation links; verb-noun, consistent command syntax with optional use of ultra-fast, concurrent control using the mouse and chord keyset; 6g1
  • Included also was a calculator package, integrated into NLS: mouse-selecting operands; totaling columns; inserting accumulator contents at selected locations or replacing selected numbers in a file; executing user macros with pauses and prompts for users to select file variables or provided typed in values. 6g1a

  • Put together our home-designed, custom-built displays system to run with the SDS-940. 6g2
  • Two custom-built, random-deflection display generators were each time-shared to drive six, small, 5" high-precision CRTs. In front of each of these CRTs was mounted a high-quality, video camera so as to scan the CRT face. These twelve video lines were brought out to our work area, where each work station had a high-quality video monitor for its display.6g2a

    Figure-4. Our early computer display set up with 5-inch CRTs.

    Figure-5. The Augmentation Project display system (close up).

    This gave us four sizes of alphanumeric characters, and accelerators vector-graphic figures. The display generators were connected on a Direct Memory Access bus so that switching from one stored view to another occurred essentially in a thirtieth of a second. 6g2b

    Figure-6. Basic production workstation: table with keyset, detached keyboard, mouse, and a separate monitor.

    Figure-7. Keyset input device (closeup).
  • came online with an improved NLS on a time-shared, SDS 940; large swapping drum; special, home-made display system operating from direct-memory access, providing integrated text and graphics, and delivering video to up to twelve workstations out in our laboratory.6g3
  • Made a public debut at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco, December. For this event, we added another layer of new technology on top of NLS, a system that was already very complex for its day. It is worth an extra bit of description here. 6g4
  • Bill English and I wrote a paper for this conference describing ARC's objectives, physical laboratory, and the current features of NLS <Pub-68-ResCen>. In the Spring, when the Program Committee was considering candidate papers and organizing its sessions, I also proposed that they let us have a full hour-and-a-half session to put on a video-projected, real-time presentation. After considerable deliberation, and no less than two site visits to our lab at SRI, they consented.6g4a

    Figure-8. Auditorium of the ACM/IEEE-CS Fall Joint Computer Conference, December 1968 [where the live demo was presented].

    It was a considerable gamble, possibly an outright misuse of research funding. I have no illusions that it could possibly have been pulled off without Bill English's genius for getting things to work. Our new display system provided us with twelve video cameras; we left about half of them working as display generators, and used the others to provide video views of people, borrowing tripods and drafting all kinds of people as camera operators and prompters.6g4b

    We leased two video links to send images from SRI to the Conference Center in San Francisco -- a direct distance of about 30 miles. It required temporarily mounting four pairs of dishes -- two atop our SRI building, two atop the Conference hall, and four on a truck parked on top of a relay mountain. We procurred some video-lab equipment: frame splitters, switches, faders, and mixers. We made special electronics to get our mouse and other terminal signals from the podium to the 940 at SRI.6g4c

    Figure-9. Display-driver equipment room at Engelbart's SRI laboratory in Menlo Park during a rehearsal for 1968 FJCC demonstration.

    It required a special video projector, whose rental included a specialist from New York to set it up and operate it. He proved invaluable in making other things work that day, too. Two cameras were mounted on the stage where I sat at the special work station (which the Herman Miller Company had made for us, and donated).6g4d

    Figure-10. Engelbart giving the demonstration; custom work station by Herman Miller Company.

    I was on-stage as anchor man during the continuous, 90-minute presentation, and Bill sat in the canvas-enclosed, raised booth at the back of the auditorium, directing the participants according the the script that I had prepared. People in our laboratory had key roles, and Bill coordinated us all via a voice intercom; while he also did the switching and mixing and frame splitting to put together the projected images.6g4e

    During that 90 minutes, we used the projected display images (composite text & graphics) both to present agendas and descriptive portrayals, and also to demonstrate what NLS could do and how we applied it to our planning, documenting, source-code development, business management, and document retrieval.6g4f

    Figure-11. View of the text retrieval presented by Bill Paxton live from the lab in Menlo Park.

    The audio and video of the entire presentation was captured on film (no portable video recorders in those days). We had ten prints made, and circulated free loaners to people for years. (This film has recently been converted to VHS video cassette form to facilitate viewing by other people. [Now available to view online])6g4g

1969 6h

  • began design of windowing capability for NLS.6h1
  • developed concept of a user "reaching through" his personal workplace (i.e. his familiar online working files and application programs) to access less basic, specialized data and application processes (and other people); i.e. the "reach through" should provide access to these, translated by the integrated support system, so as to appear as coherent parts of his familiar, personal workplace.6h2
  • specified our first mail and "Journal" system as part of an explicit pursuit of a "Dialog Support System," planning for it to be part of our ARPANET-NIC service.6h3
  • Developed document-outputting capability processing our composite, text-graphic document files to drive a service-bureau, CRT-based, full-page, Stromberg-Carlson photo printer to produce documentation with graphics and text mixed on the same pages.6h4
  • Became the second host on the ARPANET with our SDS 940. (UCLA was first, UCSB next, then the University of Utah, then ....)6h5

1970 6i

  • (See also <Rpt-70D> and <Rpt-72F>.)6i1
  • Detailed use of NLS for internal management processes of ARC: Cost records, working forecasts, purchase Renaissance, etc.6i1a

    In 1970 we began using the ARPANET to facilitate our re-programming of NLS for the forthcoming PDP-10 TENEX. The University of Utah had a TENEX on the network, and we used NLS on the 940 to write our new PDP-10 code; using our Tree-Meta compiler, we developed a cross-compiler for our 940 that produced PDP-10 relocatable binary code. We would ship that over the net for loading and debugging on Utah's TENEX.6i1b

    When the two computers and the intervening network link were all working properly (lots of flat tires in the early days of automobiles), our programmers would do all of this back and forth transitioning "through" the same workstation.6i1b1

    I think that it was not only a record-making way of working, but the NLS transport task was accomplished in remarkably short time (we attributed part of the efficiency to the network, and part to the use of NLS). 6i1b2

    In late 1970 we brought NLS up on the PDP-10 TENEX with improved and new features (including multiple windows).6i1c

    The transfer process, and a detailed description of the design changes and new features for NLS are described in <Rpt-71F>. 6i1d

  • began using our Mail/Journal system within our group. Integrated into NLS, this assumed that a mail item was a document -- so any part of all of an NLS document could be sent. Provided for permanent record in explicitly retrievable form (our Journal). As an electronic-mail system, this was quite advanced. It had a Directory service (our Ident System) to provide mail-relevant information about registered users; mail distribution was addressed by people's Idents, with no need to know or specify which host they used. Fields were provided for superceding other items, and for attaching keywords. An online index was provided for stored items. See descriptions in <Rpt-71F> and in <Pub-75-TelConf>.6i2

1972 6j

1973 6k

  • brought up a Table Subsystem in NLS.6k1
  • designed our first, totally modular User Interface System, as later described in <Pub-82-HiPerfKW>. Got it running on a PDP-11 that talked to our TENEX through the network, via our Procedure Call Protocol.6k2
  • Developed our Line Processor, as described by Don Andrews in <Pub-67-DispSel>. It incorporated Intel's first microprocessor (the 4004) in a special box which was inserted in the communication line between a dumb display terminal and a modem. This made use of our Virtual Terminal Protocols, and managed a multi-window, two-dimensional screen using off-the-shelf, "dumb" display terminals. Our mouse and keyset input devices were plugged into the line processor, which appropriately translated their actions to control cursor position and special communications to the host. A printer port on the line-processor provided local printout service; a special communication protocol allowed the host to send printer packets mixed in with display-support packets.6k3
  • Finalized specification for our Network Virtual Terminal, something which has become a key part of our architecture. The objective on the one hand was to free the application programmers from worrying about the special features of different workstations, and on the other hand, to enable more flexible evolution by users of workstations they may adopt to fit particular needs. As part of this, there was a terminal-independent Display Manipulation Protocol for communication from application program to terminal, and an application independent Input Protocol for communicating from terminal to application program.6k4
  • generalized the file structure of our document files to provide for generalized property structures associated with each addressable object; intended to accommodate composite integration of such as graphics, digitized speech, scan-coded images, or any other arbitrary data form.6k5

1974 6l

  • gave up our high-performance, local display system for the line-processor supported, remote display system -- to make ourselves live with the same remote services as our NIC clients and Utility customers. [On principle, we gave up our integrated, direct-view graphics and the fast response of our direct-memory-access, local display generator.]6l1
  • opened our "Workshop Utility Service" -- delivering NLS service over the ARPANET to DoD customers as pilot applications of office information service; had gone out on bid for commercial time-sharing services, selected Tymshare Inc. of Cupertino, Ca.; their host, named Office-1 provided the computer service; we fielded special trainers and application development staffs and cultivated special customer representatives into a spirited community.6l2

1975 6m

  • implemented our new, integrated graphics system, which could support remote display and manipulation of illustrative graphics on a Tektronix 4014 storage-tube display plugged into the line-processor's printer port. The graphic data were embedded within the NLS structured-text files; an illustration produced as a plotter-driver file by any other graphics system could be picked up and attached to a specified location in an NLS document, and be subsequently viewed and modified. Also, our Output Processor could direct that a properly scaled image of a each such illustration be located appropriately within a multi-font page layout. 6m1

Conclusions 7

I hadn't realized just how much history there is back there in my past. I wish that I could have done a more uniform job of digging and organizing for this paper. Oddly enough, a major problem is that I am quite distracted by the needs and opportunities for working on tomorrow's history -- there is still such a large "unfinished agenda" stemming from my compulsive commitment to the Augmentation Framework.7a

Re-living the past during this history exercise has left me with a feeling of having re-visited the Dark Ages. Paper tape, expensive technology, and years of frustrations with flaky, first-of-a-kind systems -- thank God that we have now emerged into the Rennaisance.7b

But another side of my experience has been with what people perceive about the possibilities stemming from these new technologies. And I am not so sure that we have moved all that far out of the Dark Ages in that regard.7c

I still don't see clear perceptions about what we humans can gain in new capabilities, or about how this may come about. There are constant, echoing statements about how fast and smart the computers are going to be, but not about how the enhanced computer capabilities will be harnessed into the daily thinking and working life of our creative knowledge workers. 7d

I guess what I am hoping to see is the emergence of professional societies concerned with something like what I call a whole Augmentation System. And I'd like there to be special conference sessions and research efforts focused on pursuit of very high performance for teams of people equipped with integrated new technologies AND with new concepts, methods, roles, skills etc.7e

And I'd like to hear people begin talking about the new OPPORTUNITIES to change their ways and skills so that they can more EFFECTIVELY HARNESS the new tools, in pursuit of their own INCREASED EFFECTIVENESS. I very much look forward to harnessing smarter and smarter computer processes within my working domain, but I would like to hear less about making computers very smart so that (apparently) the user won't have to learn new things.7f

Partial Cast of Characters 8

We recently had a reunion of all the people that had worked with NLS/AUGMENT over the years. We found about 150 names when we dug back in records and people's memories. Many of those people gave spirited support and since have gone on to work at other kinds of jobs. And many have stayed in a similar job area and have continued to contribute elsewhere -- publishing, developing, entrepreneuring and consulting.8a

Here is an alphabetic listing of some of these latter, stemming from the more historical era: 8b

Don Andrews Dave Maynard

Jim Bair John Melvin

Roger Bates Dean Meyer

Bob Belleville Elizabeth Michael

Dave Casseres Ray Panko

Jan Cornish Bruce Parsely

Tom Davis Bill Paxton

Chuck Dornbush Jeff Peters

Bill Duvall Andy Poggio

Joe Ehardt Jon Postel

Bill English Raphi Rom

Jake Feinler Jeff Rulifson

Larry Garlick Glenn Sherwood

Martin Hardy Dave Smith

Ken Harrenstein Jacques Vallee

Dave Hopper Dirk Van Nouhuys

Charles Irby Ken Victor

Susan Kahn Smokey Wallace

Kirk Kelley Dick Watson

Harvey Lehtman Anne Weinberg (Duvall)

Rob Lieberman Jim White

References 9

NOTE: Arrangements are being made to collect all of the records and films from the SRI-ARC era and store them in the History-of-Science archives at the Stanford library. This will include all of the Journal items generated by ARC staff, which is a very unique collection of detailed history beginning in 1970. These archived records will be available to qualified researchers; access will be controlled by the library archivist. 9a

RPT: Some Relevant SRI-ARC Reports 9b

Rpt-62J: "Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework," Summary Report, Stanford Research Institute, on Contract AF 49(638)-1024, October 1962, 134 pp, Engelbart, D. C.9b1

Rpt-65C: "Augmenting Human Intellect: Experiments, Concepts, and Possibilities," D. C. Engelbart; Summary Report, Stanford Research Institute, under Contract AF 49(638)-1024 for Directorate of Informtion Sciences, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, March 1965. SRI Project 3578; 65 p. 9b2

Rpt-65G: "Computer-Aided Display Control," W. K. English, D. C. Engelbart, Bonnie Huddart, SRI Final Report to NASA Langley Research Center under Contract NAS 1-3988, July 1965, 104 p. 9b3

Rpt-68D: "Development of a Multidisplay, Time-Shared Computer Facility and Computer-Augmented Management-System Research," D. C. Engelbart, W.K. English, J.F. Rulifson, SRI Final Report for AF Rome AIr Development Center under Contract AF 30(602)-4103, April 1968, nnn p., 9b4

Rpt-71F: "Network Information Center and Computer Augmented Team Interaction," Technical Report RADC-TR-71-175, by D. C. Engelbart as principal investigator for SRI Contract F30602-70-C-0219 under ARPA Order No. 967. June 1971, 99p. 9b6

Rpt-72F: "Online Team Environment: Network Information Center and Computer Augmented Team Interaction," D. C. Engelbart, Final Report RADC-TR-72-232 to Air Force Rome Air Development Center for SRI work under ARPA Order No. 967., June 8, 1972, 264 p. 9b7

PUB: Open-Literature, "Augmentation" Publications 9c

Pub-60-SpecCons: "Special Considerations of the Individual as a User, Generator, and Retriever of Information," American Documentation, 12, No. 2, pp. 121-125, April 1961. [Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Documentation Institute, Berkeley, Californaia, October 23-27, 1960.], Engelbart, D. C.9c1

Pub-63-Frame: "A Conceptual Framework for the Augmentation of Man's Intellect," in Vistas in Information Handling, Howerton and Weeks (Editors), Spartan Books, Washington, D. C., 1963, pp. 1-29. Engelbart, D. C.9c2

Pub-67-DispSel: "Display-Selection Techniques for Text Manipulation," IEEE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, Vol. HFE-8, No. 1, March 1967, Pp. 5-15. English, William K., Douglas C. Engelbart and Melvyn L. Berman.9c3

Pub-68-ResCen: "A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect," AFIPS Conference Proceedings, Vol. 33, Fall Joint Computer Conference, San Francisco, December 1968, pp. 395-410 FJCC 1968. , Engelbart, D. C., W. K. English9c4

Pub-70-IntImpl: "Intellectual Implications of Multi-Access Computer Networks," Proceedings of the Interdisciplinary Conference on Multi-Access Computer Networks, Austin, Texas, April 1970 , Engelbart, D. C.9c5

Pub-72-CommServ: "Coordinated Information Services for a Discipline- or Mission-Oriented Community," Proceedings of the Second Annual Computer Communications Conference in San Jose, California, Jan 24, 1972 -- also, Published in "Computer Communication Networks," R. L. Grimsdale and F.F. Kuo editors, Noordhoff, Leyden, 1975. Engelbart, D. C.,9c6

Pub-73-AKW: "The Augmented Knowledge Workshop," AFIPS Conference Proceedings, Volume 42, pp. 9-21, National Computer Conference, June 4-8, 1973. Engelbart, D. C., R. W. Watson and J. C. Norton. 9c7

Pub-73-KWTermDes: "Design Considerations for Knowledge Workshop Terminals," AFIPS Conference Proceedings, Volume 42, pp. 221-227 , National Computer Conference, June 4-8, 1973. Engelbart, D. C., 9c8

Pub-74-LineP: "Line Processor -- A device for amplification of display terminal capabilities for text manipulation," AFIPS Conference Proceedings, pp. 257-265 , National Computer Conference, 1974. Andrews, Donald I.,9c9

Pub-75-TelConf: "NLS Teleconferencing Features: The Journal, and Shared-Screen Telephoning," Engelbart, D. C., CompCon75, Sept. 9-11 '75, Digest of papers, pp.173-176. [IEEE Catalog No. 75CH0988-6C] 9c10

Pub-76-HLFrame: "A High-Level Framework for Network-Based Resource Sharing," James E. White, J. E., AFIPS Conference Proceedings, June 1976, NCC, Volume 45, pp. 561-570. 9c11

Pub-76-UIDes: "User Interface Design Issues for a Large Interactive System," Richard W. Watson, AFIPS Conference Proceedings, Volume 45, AFIPS Press, 1976, Montvale, NJ, pp. 357-364. 9c12

Pub-77-DAD: "The Design and Implementation of DAD, A Multiprocess, Multimachine, Multilanguage Interactive Debugger," Victor, K. E., Proceedings of the Tenth Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, University of Hawaii, 1977, pp. 196-199. 9c13

Pub-77-SEngrEnv: "A Software Engineering Environment," Kenneth E. Victor, Proceedings of AIAA/NASA/IEEE/ACM Computers In Aerospace Conference, Los Angeles, CA, October 31-November 2, 1977, pp. 399-403. 9c14

Pub-78-IntEvolOAS: "Toward Integrated, Evolutionary Office Automation Systems," Proceedings of the Joint Engineering Management Conference, Denver, Colo., 16-18 Oct 78, pp 63-68. , Engelbart, D. C.9c15

Pub-80-EvolOrg: "Evolving the Organization of the Future: A Point of View," A paper published in "Emerging Office Systems," Proceedings of the Stanford International Symposium on Office Automation, March 23-25, 1980, edited by Robert Landau, James Bair, Jeannie Siegman, Ablex Publications Corporation, Norwood, NJ. , Engelbart, D. C.9c16

Pub-82-HiPerfKW: "Toward High-Performance Knowledge Workers," Douglas C. Engelbart, OAC'82 Digest, Proceedings of the AFIPS Office Automation Conference, San Francisco, April 5-7, 1982, pp. 279-290. 9c17

Pub-84-AuthSupp: "Authorship Provisions in AUGMENT," Douglas C.Engelbart, COMPCON '84 Digest, Proceedings of the 1984, COMPCON Conference, San Francisco, Ca., February 27 - March 1, Pp. 465-472. 9c18

Pub-84-CollabSupp: "Collaboration Support Provisions in AUGMENT," Douglas C. Engelbart, OAC '84 Digest,Proceedings of the 1984, AFIPS Office Automation Conference, Los Angeles, Ca., February 20-22, Pp. 51-58. 9c19

REF: Other-Author Publications9d

Ref-A: "Administration of Research in a Research Corporation," J. L. Kennedy and G. H. Putt; RAND Corporation Report P-847 (20 April 1956)9d1

Ref-B: "The Computer as a Communication Device," from J.C.R. Licklider and Robert W. Taylor, with Evan Herbert ed., Science & Technology, April 1968, pp. 21-31. 9d2

Ref-C: "As We May Think," Vannevar Bush; The Atlantic Monthly (July 1945) 9d3

Ref-D: "Man-Computer Symbiosis," J. C. R. Licklider; IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics (March 1960). 9d4

Ref-E: "On-Line Man-Computer Communication," J. C. R. Licklider and W. E. Clark; Proceedings Spring Joint Computer Conference, Vol. 21, pp. 113-128 (National Press, Palo Alto, California, May 1962). 9d5

Ref-F: "Solution on Non-Linear Integral Equations Using On-Line Computer Control," G. J. Culler and R. W. Huff; paper prepared for Spring Joint Computer Conference, San Francisco, May 1962. [Assumedly published in Proceedings Spring Joint Computer Conference, Vol. 21, (National Press, Palo Alto, California, May 1962).] 9d6

Ref-G: "Augmenting Your Intellect" -- Editorial interview with Douglas C. Engelbart, in Research/Development (Magazine), August 1968, pp. 22-27.9d7

Ref-H: "Toward the Decentralized Intellectual Worksthop," Research/Development (Magazine), Article by Nilo Lindgren, staff writer, in Innovation, No. 24, September 1971. (XDOC, 10430,)9d8

Ref-I: "The Origin, Anatomy, and Varieties of Mus Computeralis," (It's the Year of the Mouse!), by Tom Foth, Softalk, Vol. 2, April 1984, Pp.88-96.9d9

Ref-J: "Of Mice and Men," Steven Levy, Popular Computing magazine, May 1984, pp. 70, 75-78.9d10

Ref-K: "The Loneliness of a Long-Distance Thinker," Chapter Nine, pp. 174-204, in book "Tools for Thought: The People and Ideas behind the Next Computer Revolution," by Howard Rheingold, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1985, 335 pp.9d11