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Doug Engelbart, 88, who invented computer mouse, dies

SAN FRANCISCO -- Doug Engelbart, a visionary who invented the computer mouse and developed other technology that has transformed the way people work, play and communicate, died late Tuesday. He was 88.

His death of acute kidney failure occurred at his home in Atherton, Calif., after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, said a daughter, Diana Engelbart Mangan.

Back in the 1950s and '60s, when mainframes took up entire rooms and were fed data on punch cards, Engelbart already was envisioning a day when computers would empower people to share ideas and solve problems in ways that seemed unfathomable at the time.

Engelbart considered his work to be all about "augmenting human intellect" -- a mission that boiled down to making computers more intuitive to use. One of the biggest advances was the mouse, which he developed in the 1960s and patented in 1970.

Engelbart "brought tremendous value to society," said Curtis R. Carlson, the CEO of SRI International, where Engelbart worked when it was known as the Stanford Research Institute. "We will miss his genius, warmth and charm. Doug's legacy is immense. "

The notion of operating the inside of a computer with a tool on the outside was way ahead of its time when Engelbart began working on it. The mouse didn't become commercially available until 1984, with the release of Apple's revolutionary Macintosh.

"There are only a handful of people who were as influential," said Marc Weber, founder and curator of the Internet history program at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. "He had a complete vision of what computers could become at a very early stage."

Engelbart conceived the computer mouse so early in the evolution of computers that he and his colleagues didn't profit much from it. The technology passed into the public domain in 1987.

Among Engelbart's other key developments in computing, along with his colleagues, was the use of multiple windows.

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