William English, Engineer Behind ‘The Mother of All Demos’, Dies at 91

An anonymous reader quotes The Los Angeles Times:
On Dec. 9, 1968, the then-small world of computer engineering was shaken to its core by a presentation of new technologies projected onto a screen in a San Francisco hall. The attendees at the historic event saw demonstrations of video conferencing, the first public use of a computer mouse, hyperlinking in which clicking a word in a document transported the user to an entirely new document — and more. The man who was the star of the hands-on show seen in the hall was Douglas Engelbart, whose team at the research center SRI in Menlo Park, California, had been developing them for years.

But the man who had designed what is known now as “The Mother of All Demos” and was working behind the scenes to make sure they all worked was William K. English, who died Sunday at the age of 91. Bill English played an indispensable role in more than Engelbart’s demo… In 1965 the lab received a NASA grant to invent a technology for moving a cursor and selecting an item on a display screen; Engelbart developed the concept, but it was English who designed the first prototype &mdash the mouse…

English essentially choreographed Engelbart’s presentation. Just as important, he made sure there were no technical glitches. That was a challenge, since Engelbart would be in San Francisco demonstrating a system that was being operated 30 miles away in Menlo Park, the two sites connected via a microwave relay. The event went off virtually without a hitch, and a new world was born. “Doug wasn’t doing it,” recalls Roberta, who had worked as Engelbart’s secretary. “It was all Bill.” Engelbart died in 2013.
English also participated in an early research project “into the psychological effects of LSD,” according to the article.

But a few years after the legendary demo, English was recruited for Xerox’s legendary Palo Alto Research Center, “where he helped midwife PARC’s invention of the personal computer and other innovations… He subsequently left Xerox to join Sun Microsystems and later the pioneering electronic game console maker 3DO.”

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