Doug Engelbart



Doug’s vision was quite simply to augment our collective intellect. The vision is not complicated but it is dismissed by many as being vague and others think there must be more to it. We venture that the key aspect to his work was his paradigm, his perspective of how he viewed the world and knowledge work because his philosophy – and perhaps despite his philosophy – after all, he did manage to produce real work which solved real problems which was shown off in his great demo. Simply and briefly:


We need to improve how we

augment a group’s (small, large, internal, global etc.) …

capability to approach urgent, complex problems

to gain more rapid and better comprehension (which can be defined as more thorough and more critical) …

which result in speedier and better solutions (more contextual, longer lasting, cheaper, more equitable etc.)

And furthermore, we must improve our improvement process (as individuals and groups)


His seminal 1962 paper Augmenting Human Intellect, which resulted in the 1968 Demo, presents this perspective in great detail, as does further work available in the Doug Engelbart Library.



ENGELBART TERMS : organizational


All of the terms below are also available as blog entries in our nascent Glossary system: and are presented here simply as a brief introductory overview. There is also a glossary for further terms and projects for our DKR effort:


  • ARC Augmentation Research Center, The name of Doug's lab at SRI where he proposed a system called H-LAM/T in 1962 and developed and in 1968 demonstrated NLS: oNLine System, his platform for shared knowledge work research, later renamed Augment



  • Collective IQ is the notion that same as we have individual IQ's, the IQ of a group can also be measured, in terms of  its capability for “dealing with complex, urgent problems-i.e., to understand them adequately, to unearth the best candidate solutions, to assess resources and operational capabilities and select appropriate solution commitments, to be effective in organizing and executing the selected approach, to monitor the progress and be able to adjust rapidly and appropriately to unforeseen complications, etc.” 
    (augmenting society's collective iq)


  • Co-Evolution. Most capabilities are improved, or augmented, by many interdependent technical and non-technical elements, of which tools make up only a small part:
    • On one hand, there is the human system, which includes paradigms, organizations, procedures, customs, methods, language, attitudes, skills, knowledge, training and so on- all of which all exists within the basic perceptual and motor capabilities of the human being.
    • On the other hand, there is the tool system, which includes media, computers, communications systems etc.
    • Together, they comprise the augmentation system


  • Bootstrapping. The act of co-evolving the tool and human systems to make better tools and systems, thus pulling us up by our bootstraps. (For an overview, see the Bootstrap Paradigm Map). This is done on three levels:


  • A,B & C levels of activity are levels of work activity in the bootstrapping process:
    improving our ability to improve: a call for investment in a new future )
      • A level is the the work activity of the organization
      • B level is the activity of improving A, such as adding technological tools or improved work processes
      • C level is the activity of improving how we improve, something best done across organizations, in a:


  • NIC; Networked Improvement Community “Consider an "Improvement Community" (IC) as collectively engaged in improving an agreed-upon set either of individual capabilities, or of collective group capabilities-e.g. a professional society. Let's introduce a new category, a "Networked Improvement Community" (NIC): an IC that is consciously and effectively employing best-possible DKR development and usage.”
    (augmenting society's collective iq)


  • For Doug it was clear that it is crucial that we improve our problem solving ability: “This is important, simply because man's problem-solving capability represents possibly the most important resource possessed by a society. The other contenders for first importance are all critically dependent for their development and use upon this resource.” (Engelbart 1962). Crucially it's not enough to improve our problem solving processes, we need to improve our improvement process.







  • OHS Open Hyperdocument System is an augmentation system of tools and procedures to produce and a:



  • xFiles Intermediary files in the OHS system.


  • ViewSpecs The notion that it is valuable for the user to be able to specify how to view information.






  • Spoken Record where Doug discusses key aspects of his work in The Audio Record


  • The Doug Engelbart Institute is where you can find his publications as well as other documents:








Vint Cerf, co-invnetor of the Internet and friend of Doug's writes: “Douglas Engelbart believed that computers could be used to augment human intellect and J.C.R. Licklider agreed with him. Doug and his team manifested this belief with his oNLine System, NLS. This was a document production and sharing environment intended to enhance collaborative work expressed in document form. There were many features of the system that shaped document production to enhance the structure and style of the documents and to facilitate cross-referencing through hyperlinking. Licklider's primary contribution, among others, was to pursue computer interconnection through the ARPANET project which led to the design and development of the Internet initially designed by Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf. Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau invented the World Wide Web protocols (Hypertext Transport Protocol, HTTP and Hypertext Markup Language, HTML and servers and browsers to implement them).


In the 21st Century, we have cloud computing that offers far more computing capacity to billions of users and we are developing new artificial intelligence tools including hardware-based machine learning, multi-level neural networks, machine translation tools, pattern recognition mechanisms and a host of other capabilities. The question is how to apply these new and powerful tools in a cooperative partnership with human users to augment our intellectual capabilities. We have already seen the effects of social media in the Internet and the power of search tools to sift through the vast and growing content of the Internet/WWW. Will these tools enhance the creation and curation of human knowledge? Can they be applied to developing better models of the way the world works so as to manage scarce resources better, to distribute knowledge and capabilities more uniformly and to generally improve the human condition on a global scale? I am confident that, were he alive today, Douglas Engelbart would have answered these questions in the positive and gone on to seek ways of finding and applying those answers.


It is up to us to follow in his footsteps to seek those answers and to put them to work for the benefit of all who inhabit this precious planet, Earth. It is that vision that we will celebrate December 9, 2018.”

What is Still Missing


Basic innovations which is still not in general use, or even in use at all, which are all powerful aspects of a DKR which we can really benefit from:


  • A Journal which is a repository to which documents can be posted but cannot be deleted, only increased in version number if a new version is submitted. A basic and robust versioning system


  • xFiles. a data container, a format, conventions and structure for data storage for the DKR


  • Chorded Keyset. Doug invented more than the mouse and showed the power in having more opportunities to translate hand and finger movements to computer commands


  • Advanced Linking:


    • High Resolution Linking, so that a link can point to a specific sentence, paragraph or any other object within a document, not just to the document as a whole


    • Implicit Links through which the user can choose to view any corpus entry the text is implicitly linked to, such as a dictionary entry or a glossary entry


    • Basic ‘Hyper’ Characteristics where embedded objects called links can point to any arbitrary object within the document, or within another document in a specified domain of documents - and the link can be actuated by a user or an automatic process to "go see what is at the other end," or "bring the other-end object to this location," or "execute the process identified at the other end." (These executable processes may control peripheral devices such as CD ROM, video-disk players, etc.)


    • Multiple Links from one place to allow the user to choose what aspect to follow


    • Link Types to specify what the link points to, such as supplemental information and so on


    • Backlinks & Link Databases so that the a document is aware of incoming links as well as outgoing links


    • Links in Images. It is of course possible to create image maps but the current tools do not support this for non-graphics people. Doug had the example of showing a basic map where each location name could be clicked on to jump to its corresponding document. This is not quick to do today.


  • Rich ViewSpecs  (View Specifications) Allows the user to decide how to view a document, including options to show only the first sentence of every paragraph and so on:


    • Structure Cutoff. Show only the statements that lie “below” this statement in the structure (i.e., this “branch”); or show only those following statements that are at this level or deeper; or show all of the following statements that will fit in this window
    • Level Clipping. For the designated structure cutoff, show only the statements down to a specified level. Lower-level statements are “clipped” from the view; the worker can thus view just a selected number of the upper levels of his document/file
    • Statement Truncation. For those statements brought into view (as selected by other view specifications), show only their first n lines. Truncation to one line is often used, along with level clipping, in order to get an effective overview.
    • Inter-Statement Separation. For viewing ease -- blank lines can be optionally installed between statements. (Note: The foregoing view controls are extremely helpful when studying and modifying a document's structural organization.)
    • Statement Numbers and Names. Optionally, for a given window, show the Statement Number (or the SID) of each statement -- with an option for showing them at either the right or at the left margin. Independently, the showing of statement names may be turned on or off
    • Frozen Statements. A worker may select a number of statements, in random order, and designate them as "frozen." One of the view-specification options is to have the frozen statements appear at the top of the frame, with the rest of that window left for normal viewing and editing. The frozen statements may be edited, or even cross-edited between any other displayed (or addressable) statements
    • User-Specified Content Filters. A simple content-analysis language may be used in a ‘Set Content Pattern’ command, which compiles a little content-checking program. One of the view-specification options will cause the system to display only those statements which satisfy both the structure and level conditions imposed by other viewspecs, and which also pass the content-analysis test applied by this program. Where desired, very sophisticated content-analysis programs may be written, using a full-blown programming language, and placed on call for any user



This list is largely from Authorship Provisions In Augment.