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cotton, Bob; oliver, Richard


"Douglas Engelbart read Bush's article "As we may think" towards the end of the War while he was still an army radar technician. Within 20 years or so, at his laboratory at the Stanford Institute, he had developed his own contributions to hypermedia: the idea of the mouse and windows, electronic mail and teleconferencing. All these components formed part of Engelbart's "Augmentation" project a project that provided much of the framework for both the development of the personal computer and for hypermedia. Engelbart conceived the idea of a computer-based system for the "augmentation of man's intellect" in the early 60s:
"When I first heard about computers, I understood from my radar experience during the war that if these machines can show you information on printouts, they could show that information on a screen. When I saw the connection between a television-like screen, an information processor, and a medium for representing symbols to a person it all tumbled together in about half and hour. I went home and sketched a system in which computers would draw symbols on the screen and I could steer through different information spaces with knobs and levers and look at words and data and graphics in different ways. I imagined ways you could expand it to a theatre-like environment where you could sit with colleagues and exchange information on many levels simultaneously. God! Think of how that would let you cut loose in solving problems!"
By 1968 Engelbart had produced the NLS (oN Line System), which embodied features that were to become prototypes for all the hypermedia systems we have now. These features, ranging from the mouse, windows and electronic mail to word processing and hypertext, were all steps on the road towards an "Augmentation" system that would marry contributions from a human user (the ability to organise, a knowledge of procedures, customs, methods and language, and skills, knowledge and training) with a "tool system". This would include capabilities for communicating with other users, for "travelling" through an information space, for viewing information in a variety of ways, and for the retrieval and processing of information in a number of different media. Today, Engelbart believes that such a system creates a synergy between the user and the computer that will amplify the user's intellectual capabilities. As a graphic demonstration of what happens when tools handicap our thinking, instead of augmenting it, Engelbart has suggested that we try to write with a pencil tied to a brick. Such a poor tool "disaugments" our intellect."

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