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We continue the sometimes joyful and sometimes painful path to try to be better human beings - this is only possible because we can rise above logic, that we find the wonder and hope, the language and words to inspire us and keep us going. Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Douglas Engelbart's Norweigian Cousin Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

This blog is really for Engelbart afficionados. Click on the title for more about Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson from Oslo University.

I was recently reminded of the impact of Doug Engelbart's ARC Lab (Augmentation Research Center at SRI in the 60's and 70's) when John Markoff of the New York Times wrote about a high school student who had hung out at Doug's lab. Geoff Goodfellow came up with the idea of wireless email years and years before Blackberry and others. Doug's lab was the 2nd note on the ARPANET and as a result, no doubt, Geoff Goodfellow's inspiration is embedded in the core of the Internet in a protocol number '99' set aside for wireless email. http://www.wirelessmuse.com/winternet/2006/04/new_york_times_.html

But of course it was not in a vacuum, the intellectual ferment of the ARC lab, I'm sure had something to do with it.

Doug recently took me out for a birthday breakfast, thank you Doug! And we talked about his famous Norweigian Nobel-prize winning, writer of the lyrics of the Norweigian national anthem, ancestral cousin Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. I'd always felt that there was somewhere that Doug's "one-of-a-kind" way of thinking had emerged, and reading about Bjørnson made me realize that some of it was in his genes.

BJØRNSON (1832 - 1910) www.gonorway.no/go/bjoernson.html and Douglas Carl
Engelbart (1925 -

Douglas Engelbart's ancestor was first cousin to Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, a Norweigian who was the third person awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1903. I've tried to insert their mid-life photos side by side (the links are there if this doesn't work in your browser) - there is some resemblance!

It's interesting to see strands of Doug's thought "preceded" by the works of his distinguished ancestor.... the idealistic spirit, international efforts. The idea of "crop rotation" where Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson alternated between heroic sagas and peasant stories, is also reminiscent of Doug's "two-faceted" way of working, which is alternate between wanting to collaborate and really wanting to work on his own, in his own way; and to wanting to involve people and augment humanity, while working with computers to do this.

Click on the title to link to the description of , by Professor Edvard Beyer, who is professor of Nordic literature at the University of Oslo. I've reproduced below an extract that 1 particularly liked because it reminds me a lot of how Engelbart's mind works, in describing the sagas and stories of the Nobel-prize winning Bjørnson.

" a restrained power, an unquenchable urge for adventure, talents in search of a goal, stubborn pride and a shy taciturnity, which keeps others at arm´s length."

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