Mighty Mouse turn 40 today

It’s hard to say what has been the most significant invention in IT of all time: the integrated circuit, the microprocessor, the PC and the web have moulded IT in ways their inventors never imagined.

But 40 years ago, on December 9th 1968, Doug Engelbart and a group of researchers from the Augmented Human Intellect (AHI) Research Center at Stanford Research Institute, gave a public demonstration of end user computing. Englebart showed the world the computer mouse, which was actually made of wood.

Engelbart demoed personal computing, shared documents and video conferencing. He used his wooden mouse  to click through documents, jus like how we use hypertext linking today on the world-wide web. So this week Computer Weekly is celebrating the greatest IT invention of all time. Long live the mouse.

I’d love to hear what IT invention you would rate as the greatest of all time.

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Not sure if it is a curse or one of the greatest IT inventions of all time but I would suggest the Blackberry.

I'd probably plump for the display, even looking at an old green screen CRT beats a punch card.

“The most important invention in the world of IT has to be the invention of the internet. The impact of the internet is by far the biggest change in IT since the invention of the PC and the MS operating system. It is the key force which is democratising knowledge in ways which none of its inventors ever imagined. It’s connecting people across countries, cultures and race into a new world which exists in parallel to the nation state as we know it. The impact of the internet not just on IT but society is still evolving – in the next 20 years it will become a medium more important for everything – governments interface with citizens ( see the experiments of Vivek Kundra the Washington CTO on this subject http://www.appsfordemocracy.org ), business interface with customers, people to people interface, democratisation of knowledge which will equip kids in Sub Sahara Africa to have access to knowledge very similar to a kid in London and almost all aspects of how we live.

New Kids with comfort on the internet starting off at 4 /5 years will take this to places which none of us have imagined – so the ride has just begun I would say. “

I believe that the Windows Operating System is the most significant invention in IT for several reasons. Firstly, if we didn’t have the Windows OS, IT would not be as uniform, interoperable and practical as it is today. Increasingly the industry talks about breaking down ‘silo based’ business and IT challenges through Service Orientated Architecture. But before SOA was even a glint in a CIO’s eye it was Microsoft’s emphasis on interoperability, through the Windows model, which made true workplace collaboration possible.

Secondly, the continuing ubiquity of the Window’s model and its base code offers a bridge between the traditional pervasive desktop environment and the exciting present and future advancements we see taking shape within ‘the cloud’. Windows will play a major role as a bridge between the two approaches. Windows therefore not only forms a major building block for past IT achievements, but it will also act as the IT ‘glue’ which binds together both the desktop and cloud approaches, creating a flexible hybrid model for the future. Certainly, IT as an industry would not be as remarkably successful as it is without the advent of Windows. For this reason alone Windows gets my vote.

“The modem is also a critical invention. Dennis C. Hayes and Dale Heatherington invented the PC modem in 1977, establishing a technology that has allowed today's online and Internet industries to emerge and grow. Once users could get online access to computer systems the business value and dependence on IT grew exponentially. This subsequently created a significant challenge for IT organisations to manage and secure these environments – but that is another story!”

Pierre F. Lherisson

The emergence of the internet has been a significant scientific breakthrough in terms of acquisition and transmission of knowledge. The internet is relatively new but it is a catalyst that virtually shrinking time and space by allowing interactive exchange of idea at a global level. It permeates every sphere of human endeavors; it generates new habit formations and increases efficiency. As of 2009, the internet users represent 25% of the world population but this percentage is widening as the price of computer will continues to dwindling while the potential benefits associated with the internet are convincing more people to become literate.