The ‘Mother Of All Demos’ Becomes Stage Show


Arguably the greatest tech demonstration in history has become an operatic drama.

Avant-garde composers Mikel Rouse and Ben Neill have put together a “multimedia musical production” that will be performed at Stanford University tomorrow and on Wednesday. It’s based around a December 1968 presentation by Doug Engelbart of the Stanford Research Institute.

As we noted after his death in 2013, the presentation later became known as “The Mother Of All Demos” as it became clearer and clearer just how visionary Engelbart had been. In the space of 100 minutes he gave the first public demonstrations of both the computer mouse (which he patented as “X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System”) and video conferencing.

Engelbart was actually speaking from his computer lab 30 miles away from the conference venue. It’s only that fact that meant the presentation was recorded and is still viewable today.

In the same presentation he talked through numerous ideas that later became part of every day technology, including hypertext links, computer networking, interactive document editing and the type of graphical interface that we’d now recognize as Windows and the like.

Rouse and Neill have now put together a multimedia opera based on both Engelbart’s career and the demo itself. As well as clips of the original presentation, they have turned the text typed by Engelbart into operatic vocals. The event, simply titled “The Demo”, also includes reenactments of key moments from Engelbart’s life and original electronic music plus demonstrations of modern use of the technologies Engelbart predicted.

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