A quote from “Tools for Thought” by Howard Rheingold, from the chapter titled “The loneliness of the long-distance thinker

  • Harry Truman was President and Sputnik was a word that only Russian language experts knew when Doug Engelbart first thought about displaying words and images on radar screens, storing them in computers, and manipulating them with levers and buttons and keyboards.
  • To hear him tell it today, both the computer establishment and the computer revolutionaries still fail to understand that the art and power of using a computer as a mind amplifier are not in how the amplifier works but in what the amplified minds are able to accomplish.
  • Engelbart realized, as had Vannevar Bush, that humankind was moving into an era in which the complexity and urgency of global problems were surpassing time-honored tools for dealing with problems. He also began to understand, as did Licklider a few years later, that handling the informational by-products of problem-solving had itself become the key to all the other problems.
  • The biggest difference between the citizen of preliterate culture and the industrial-world dweller who can perform long division or dial a telephone is not in the brain’s “hardware” — the nervous system of the highlander or the urbanite — but in the thinking tools given by the culture. Reading, writing, surviving in a jungle or a city, are examples of culturally transmitted human software.
  • While Engelbart was, in fact, suggesting that computers could be used to automate a low-level task like typewriting, the point he wanted to make had to do with changes in the overall system — the capabilities such an artifact would open up for thinking in a more effective, wider-ranging, more articulate, quicker, better-formatted manner. That is why he distinguished his proposed new category of computer applications by using the term augmentation rather than the more widespread word automation.
  • Even the chewing-gum-and-bailing-wire version Doug was attempting to get off the ground in 1968 had the ability to impose new structures on what you could see through its windows. The symbolic domain, from minutiae to the grandest features, could be arranged at will by the informationaut, who watched through his window while he navigated his vehicle and the audience witnessed it all on the big screen

From the beginning of “A Conceptual Framework for the Augmentation of Man’s Intellect” in 1963:

  • Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: that comprehension can be gained more quickly; that better comprehension can be gained; that a useful degree of comprehension can be gained where previously the situation was too complex; that solutions can be produced more quickly; that better solutions can be produced; that solutions can be found where previously the human could find none.
  • We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human “feel for a situation” usefully coexist with powerful concepts, streamlined technology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids.