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The Co-Creator Of The Computer Mouse Has Died

Bill English, who built the first working prototypes of the computer mouse
Bill English, who built the first working prototypes of the computer mouse
Photo: SRI

Bill English, one of the two men responsible for the invention of the computer mouse you may be resting your hand on right now, has died at the age of 91.

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Along with Douglas Engelbart, who passed away in 2013, English helped usher in the era of modern computing by creating a device that could be used to easily select words and characters on a screen.

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While it was Engelbart who had the idea for the mouse, as the BBC report they were little more than “brief notes” until English came along in 1963 and actually built a wooden box with a single button and two wheels underneath, which brought Engelbart’s vision to life.

Footage from the very first public demonstration of the mouse, in 1968
Gif: SRI International

It would be another five years of work until the mouse was first shown publicly, however, at the now-famous 1968 “Mother of All Demos” presentation at the Stanford Research Institute, which not only featured the debut of the mouse, but of hyperlinks, real-time editing, windows, and computer teleconferencing as well.

Despite the mouse’s importance to modern life, neither Engelbart nor English profited much from its creation, as the patent was owned by SRI who then licensed it out to companies like Apple before it expired in 1987.

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“The only money Doug ever got from it was $50,000 licence from Xerox when Xerox Parc started using the mouse, English told the BBC back in 2013.

“Apple never paid any money from it, and it took off from there.”

English died in San Rafael, California on July 26 of respiratory failure.

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

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DISCUSSION

Englebart and English, two true computer visionaries.

RIP :’(