Inventor of the computer mouse Doug Engelbart has died at the age of 88.
The death of the American, who also developed early incarnations of email, word processing programs and the internet, was confirmed by the museum where he had been a fellow since 2005.
The Computer History Museum in California said it was notified in an email from his daughter, Christina. His wife, Karen O’Leary Engelbart, told the New York Times the cause of death was kidney failure.
Mr Engelbart was a pioneer of efforts to make computers user-friendly and said his work was all about “augmenting human intellect”.
He developed the mouse in the 1960s and patented in 1970. At the time, it was a wooden shell covering two metal wheels, with an X-Y position indicator for a display system.
The notion of operating the inside of a computer with a tool on the outside was way ahead of its time and the mouse was not commercially available until 1984, with Apple’s new Macintosh.
But Engelbart’s invention was so early that he and his colleagues did not profit much from it.
The mouse patent had a 17-year life span and in 1987 the technology fell into the public domain – meaning Engelbart could not collect royalties on the mouse when it was in its widest use. At least one billion have been sold since the mid-1980s.
Among Engelbart’s other key developments in computing, along with his colleagues at the Stanford institute and his own lab, the Augmentation Research Centre, was the use of multiple windows.
His lab also helped develop ARPANet, the government research network that led to the internet.
Engelbart dazzled the industry at a San Francisco computer conference in 1968.
Working from his house with a homemade modem, he used his lab’s elaborate new online system to illustrate his ideas to the audience, while his staff linked in from the lab.
It was the first public demonstration of the mouse and video teleconferencing and it prompted a standing ovation.
Engelbart took up a research position at Stanford Research Institute, now SRI International, in 1957.
SRI head Curtis Carlson said: “Doug was a giant who made the world a much better place and who deeply touched those of us who knew him.
“We will miss his genius, warmth and charm. Doug’s legacy is immense. Anyone in the world who uses a mouse or enjoys the productive benefits of a personal computer is indebted to him.”
But the mild-mannered Engelbart played down the importance of his inventions, stressing instead his bigger vision of using collaboration over computers to solve the world’s problems.
“Many of those firsts came right out of the staff’s innovations – even had to be explained to me before I could understand them,” he said in a biography written by his daughter. “They deserve more recognition.”