This week we lost two people that are much on my mind. The first is Douglas Engelbart, one of the great visionaries in the history of the computer industry. You can read the New York Times obituary, but my favorite piece on Engelbart’s impact was by Bret Victor.
Engelbart was, of course, one of the fathers of the Silicon Valley as we know it today. As the obituary mentions, with regard to “The Mother of All Demos,” given by Engelbart in 1968:
The conference attendees were awe-struck. In one presentation, Dr. Engelbart demonstrated the power and the potential of the computer in the information age. The technology would eventually be refined at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center and at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Apple and Microsoft would transform it for commercial use in the 1980s and change the course of modern life.
This week we also lost Jeffrey McManus, who in many ways epitomized the Silicon Valley to me, in a good way.
He passed away in his sleep at age 46. He joins the list of people I knew online for what seems like forever and never got the chance to meet in person, much to my regret. I always knew him as jeffreyp — that was his login on The Well. He was always the life of the online party, and I get the sense that he was the life of the party in the real world as well.
I was an interested spectator as he married and created a family with his wife Carole, progressed through his career, and leveled up his half-elf ranger Cocteaustin in Everquest.
Jeffrey was a huge beneficiary of the world Engelbart helped to create, and he did his part to build on Engelbart’s work. He wrote computer books, worked on developer platforms for companies like Ebay and Yahoo, and wound up founding CodeLessons, an online education company dedicated to teaching people to program. He’s gone way, way too soon.
I feel especially reminded this week to focus on the things that really matter.