Sunday, 9 December 2018

the mother of all demos

Fifty years ago on this day, computer engineer and inventor addressed a gathering of fellow enthusiasts at conference in San Francisco and presented a comprehensive introduction of nearly everything that we would come to expect personal and business computing to deliver over the following decades and up to the present—except perhaps not imagining to speed or to scale.
The ninety minute hardware and software demonstration, inspired by the work of Vannevar Bush (here and here), was a rather extemporaneous display on mouse-usage, multiple tabs and windows, hypertext links, graphic interface, tele-conferencing, word-processing and version-control (collaborative editing). The vaunted title is itself a snowclone of the a translation of a warning issued by Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 1991 that presaged that the US would face the “mother of all battles” should it choose to counter the country’s annexation of Kuwait, the turn-of-phrase itself sourced to the 636 AD battle of al-Qadisiyyah when the Arabs defeated the Persians and brought Islam to their newly annexed territories. The working title of the presentation was the more prosaic A Research Centre for Augmenting the Human Intellect and Mother of All Demos was appended far after the fact.