Milestone-Proposal:"Mother of All Demos"

From IEEE Milestones Wiki

To see comments, or add a comment to this discussion, click here.

Docket #:2014-01

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has the IEEE Section(s) in which the plaque(s) will be located agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

Public Demonstration of Online Systems and Personal Computing, 1968

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

Commonly termed the "Mother of All Demos," Douglas Engelbart and his team demonstrated their oNLine System (NLS) at Brooks Hall in San Francisco on 9 December 1968. Connected via microwave link to the host computer and other remote users at SRI in Menlo Park, the demonstration showcased many fundamental technologies that would become ubiquitous, including collaborative online editing, hypertext, video conferencing, word processing, spell checking, revision control, and the mouse.

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

Santa Clara Valley

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: Santa Clara Valley
Senior Officer Name: Ed Aoki

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: Santa Clara Valley
Senior Officer Name: Ed Aoki

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: Santa Clara Valley
IEEE Section Chair name: Ed Aoki

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Shayne Hodge
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Marc Weber
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Stanford Research Institute lobby, 333 Ravenswood Ave., Menlo Park, CA 94025 37.4576055, -122.176637599, and possibly also at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (former Brooks Hall), 99 Grove St., San Francisco, CA 94102

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. SRI lobby. There is another IEEE milestone plaque in this lobby already.

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

Wall, in lobby, ground floor entrance.

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

Open to public during normal business hours.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?


What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

Helping catalyze a fundamental switch in the way computers are used, i.e. as communication and knowledge navigation devices rather than primarily for calculation. A variety of technologies were shown in this demo that made their way into later computing systems - video conferencing, hypertext, collaborative editing, mice, GUIs, etc. Many of these would go on to influence the Xerox PARC Alto and later the Macintosh and Windows operating systems.

The phrase "Mother of All Demos" has entered the vernacular in reference to this event, and especially when used in the computing community, is recognized as referring to this event. "Demo" in this case being short for "demonstration" (as opposed to "demolition," which it can mean in civil engineering or architectural contexts).

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

The practical obstacles were getting funding for such radical ideas, assembling the world-class hardware and software engineers needed to make them a reality, and developing the actual software and hardware given that most of the main elements needed to be invented or at developed from scratch. The main obstacle, however, was one of attitude: the mainstream computer science community and industry of the era did not see communication and knowledge navigation as a practical or cost-effective application for computers

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

It's difficult to think of any comparable achievements; this short demo gave a (working) glimpse of the major end-user computing technologies of the next twenty-five-plus years.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

The demo itself, on youtube: Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework (D. Engelbart, 1962, a predecessor to the Demo): The paper for the demo ("A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect "): John Markoff, What the Dormouse Said, 2005 (book), excerpt: Obituary by John Markoff: Memorial article at the Computer History Museum: Fellow Award page at Computer History Museum:,Engelbart/ Permanent exhibition at Computer History Museum: Guide to the ARC/NIC records: Video of memorial event: Stanford event 1999, "Engelbart's Unfinished Revolution." Video of event at, URL for 1 of over 20 segments: Video at Stanford event celebrating Engelbart 2008: Oral history interview of Engelbart by John Markoff: The Douglas Engelbart Institute page on the demo: Wired article: Invisible Revolution, Web documentary on Douglas Engelbart: Conference Announcement Flyer (attached) "The Mother of All Demos", Salamanca, Claudia, Proceedings of the Digital Arts and Culture Conference, 2009, deconstructing the presentation and its impact

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.