In the age of technology, the computer mouse is a simple yet quintessential invention for humans around the world to stay connected. Photo via Public Domain Pictures.

In today’s society, computers have become ingrained into cultures all across the world. Cell phones are in almost every American’s pocket, and desktop computers are in almost every American’s household. However, only 60 years ago, computers were the size of rooms, and only a select few people knew how to operate them. They weren’t even available for civilian commercial purchase. So how, in such a short time, did this drastic shift in size and usership occur, and who helped make the modern commercial computer?

Among many other important inventions, one creation vital to the usability of computers is the mouse. 2023 is the 60th anniversary of the invention of the computer mouse, and its inventor is particularly important here at Franklin. Douglas Engelbart graduated from Franklin High School in 1942. After high school, Engelbart found his way into the world of computer science and graduated from the University of California Berkeley with a PhD in Electrical Engineering. At a time where computers were only used for crunching numbers, using them to connect people with one another became his life’s mission, reported the New York Times.

For the majority of this career, Engelbart worked at SRI International (known then as the Stanford Research Institute) where he developed not only inventions, but philosophies that dominated the world of computer science. Engelbart looked at human intelligence collectively, and how computers could advance human knowledge, all of which were novel concepts to computer scientists of the time. This was displayed in 1968 in a live demonstration of Engelbart’s work, now called “The Mother of All Demos.”In terms of concrete inventions, he is most known for his work on the computer mouse and on the oN-Line System, which is one of the first versions of the internet. Engelbart’s work with Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) is very important, as it’s the way we interact with a computer, which is what he was interested in the most. All of Engelbart’s early designs were very ahead of their time. The mouse, for example, wasn’t widely used until the 1980s, and the oN-Line System was only a very early version of the internet, which inspired the one we know today.

In more ways than one, Engelbart was a pioneer. He brought to life concepts that were only dreamed of in science fiction at the time. Engelbart believed that interactions between computers and humans could better society, and he worked for more than four decades helping build devices for the advanced world he believed in. Clicking, searching, and receiving immediate results can all be traced back to his work. Engelbart continued his work through the early 2000s, eventually retiring in 2008. Engelbart sadly passed away in 2013.

Despite Engelbart’s small connection to Franklin after he graduated, his life and his work shows students what is possible after graduating. Engelbart is a perfect role model of what can become from hard work. 

Not every alumni has as influential or recognized career as Engelbart, but that doesn’t mean we should count their support and accomplishments any less. Many alumni donate to academic and extracurricular programs students take part in. From September 2022 to February 2023, the Franklin High Alumni Association (FHAA) donated more than $18,000 to academic and extracurricular activities at Franklin. The FHAA has over 700 paying members, whose money goes partially towards grants and donations to the school.  

Athletes, lawyers, cosmetologists, musicians, doctors, servers, construction workers, inventors, pop stars, politicians: they’ve all graduated from Franklin. So when you’re walking the halls, or wanting to be out of school, remember the brilliant people who did it before you. Remember the people who persevered to set the world outside of high school up for your thoughts, ideas, and creations.

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