D.C. Engelbart

Stanford Research Institute
Menlo Park, California



The attached sixteen-page thinkpiece is a rough-draft presentation of details regarding two inter-related research projects that we would like to undertake. This short writeup is designed to help you decide whether it would be of interest to you to wade through those sixteen pages.

Do you have interest in "flexible" means by which humans could exchange information with special equipment? We want to develop new communication means that allow a human to control or make use of machines (especially information-handling machines) with minimal inference in other physical activities associated with his primary tasks. Our specifications in this regard assume that fixed keysets and displays are too restrictive. We have specific suggestions for hardware and techniques to start off our pursuit. These should provide a reasonably universal means for humans to communicate (both ways) with machines in a manner compatible with the postures and movements normally associated with such as office, laboratory, conference-room, field-reconnaissance, or vehicle-control activities.

Or, do you have interest in possibilities for automating the teaching of co-ordinate physical skills? Automation of symbol-skill teaching (representing most to the teaching activitiy in our school systems) is a very significant and exciting recent trend in research. We feel we have means to apply similar principles, to similar advantages, for physical-skill training. We have specific ideas and suggestions for equipment and procedures that seem suitable for a large variety of physical skills. These promise a cheaper, quicker training period, and may well allow us to develop higher levels of physical skill than are now feasible to consider.

You may well be interested in both areas, as we are--and for perhaps a similar reason. We feel that the human capability for making use of man-machine communication means is a very important skill, and will be ever more so. Early experiments on our new training methods could very handily be done on the communicating skills which we intend to be developing, and which can thus receive a very important "trainability" evaluation. There are aspects of both projects which can contribute to basic learning theory, but the chances of this being realized in the communication-means project would be slight without co-ordination with the automated-training project. An overlap of facilities and personnel can exist for perhaps a year, with profit to both areas. We want to co-ordinate the promotion of support for them in hopes of arranging such overlap.

We consider both projects to be of the type where worthwhile results in equipment, techniques, and understanding should be obtained within a year, but where there is also an excellent basis for continuing well beyond into richer developments. With such open-ended and rich possibilities, it is hard to specificy manpower and costs for a first-year's project in either area without a sense for sponsoring interest. A lower limit for a first year in either project alone



might be something like $40,000. Quite a bit more return per dollar would come from a co-ordinated activity and say $120,000 and the results should be quite significant. For a sponsor who finds substantial long-range interest in one or both areas, we could develop more sophisticated facilities, take deeper cuts into the basic problems, and get a much better start toward long-range progress with something of the order of $250,000.