During the 1968 Fall Joint Computer Conference (a semi-annual joint meeting of the then major computing societies) held in San Fransisco, the ARC lab harnessed some leased video links to the conference site and borrowed an unusual, new device that could project dynamic video brightly onto a 20-foot screen needed to provide readable NLS screens in a space holding 1000-plus attendees. At a special session, Engelbart, operating NLS from the stage through a home-made modem, used NLS to outline and then concretely illustrate his ideas to the audience while members of his staff (with their faces shown on the screen) linked in from his lab at SRI. A standing ovation concluded this "mother of all demos," the first public demonstration of the computer mouse, of hypermedia, and of on-screen video teleconferencing.
Made a public debut at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco, December. For this event, we added another layer of new technology on top of NLS, a system that was already very complex for its day. It is worth an extra bit of description here. Bill English and I wrote a paper for this conference describing ARC's objectives, physical laboratory, and the current features of NLS. In the Spring, when the Program Committee was considering candidate papers and organizing its sessions, I also proposed that they let us have a full hour-and-a-half session to put on a video-projected, real-time presentation. After considerable deliberation, and no less than two site visits to our lab at SRI, they consented.
It was a considerable gamble, possibly an outright misuse of research funding. I have no illusions that it could possibly have been pulled off without Bill English's genius for getting things to work. Our new display system provided us with twelve video cameras; we left about half of them working as display generators, and used the others to provide video views of people, borrowing tripods and drafting all kinds of people as camera operators and prompters.
We leased two video links to send images from SRI to the Conference Center in San Francisco -- a direct distance of about 30 miles. It required temporarily mounting four pairs of dishes -- two atop our SRI building, two atop the Conference hall, and four on a truck parked on top of a relay mountain. We procurred some video-lab equipment: frame splitters, switches, faders, and mixers. We made special electronics to get our mouse and other terminal signals from the podium to the 940 at SRI.
It required a special video projector, whose rental included a specialist from New York to set it up and operate it. He proved invaluable in making other things work that day, too. Two cameras were mounted on the stage where I sat at the special work station (which the Herman Miller Company had made for us, and donated).
I was on-stage as anchor man during the continuous, 90-minute presentation, and Bill sat in the canvas-enclosed, raised booth at the back of the auditorium, directing the participants according the the script that I had prepared. People in our laboratory had key roles, and Bill coordinated us all via a voice intercom; while he also did the switching and mixing and frame splitting to put together the projected images.
During that 90 minutes, we used the projected display images (composite text & graphics) both to present agendas and descriptive portrayals, and also to demonstrate what NLS could do and how we applied it to our planning, documenting, source-code development, business management, and document retrieval.
The audio and video of the entire presentation was captured on film (no portable video recorders in those days). We had ten prints made, and circulated free loaners to people for years. (This film has recently been converted to VHS video cassette form to facilitate viewing by other people.)