To: 315 (Project A) file.
Date: July 26,1960
From: Doug Engelbart Location:
Subject: Individual's Information Handling Answering:
Thank you very much for the opportunity to pitch into my pet project on a "wellstudied" basis. Following is a short statement of what, from the present vantage point, appears to be a likely course of action for me for the next few months. If things change, or become more definite, I shall try to provide you with the new plans. Also, some special requests for your consideration.
I consider my basic objective during the forthcoming months to be the development of a plan for getting going in the program area roughly indicated by the goal phrase, "seeking to improve the intellectual capability of humans." I expect this plan to include a picture of the overall activities, facilities, and personnel that seem called for, plus some assessment of sponsorship possibilities. I hope that definite project possibilities can have crystallized and be under active promotion within six months. I think, actually, that this may involve several projects, with more to follow, attacking different aspects of the overall picture.
There are two things that I consider doing that have definite deadlines associated with them:
1. I am quite interested in setting up a seminar at Stanford for the fall quarter. I need to look into the ways and means, and assess the possibilities. If I follow through on this, the running of the seminar will become significant in determining the way the forthcoming months are spent. Part of my assessment will involve working up an outline of the proposed seminar activities, as well as an evaluation of its benefits to me, and I shall provide you with this material when it is available (assumedly, before the seminar becomes a fact).
2. There is a conference of the American Documentation Institute in Berkeley in October. Charlie Bourne chairs two sessions, one of which seems appropriate for a paper on the special needs and aspects of storage and retrieval for the individual. I plan to prepare and deliver such. Seems to be a good chance to bring up these notions before this body of people, and the audience is sure to include potential sponsors with whom a little seed sowing should be a good thing...assuming the seed stock is good.
Except for early needs which may develop with respect to the above two items, I plan to spend most of the next month in intensive and singleminded study, in which I want to assimilate, integrate, and become oriented with the various piles of reference material that I have been shuffling and skimming up to now.
After this first study period, I may become involved in the seminar, and also should organize the paper for the Documentation conference. The seminar would, I feel, provide a strong organizing influence upon my work, provide a good way for review and discussion of my ideas, and introduce considerations from people with other disciplines in their backgrounds.
There is considerable interest by Harry Kincaid and Phil Sorensen, of the Econ. Div. Behavioral Sciences Group, in such as teaching machines. I have been discussing possibilities with them (and with Bill Madow, who also seems interested) for SRI's getting into this very important and appropriate field of activity. Thoughts have gone as far as realizing the possible suitability of establishing such as a Training Laboratory, to do development and applications work in all phases of human training. This fits in extremely well, both in the nature of the objective and in the types of facilities and personnel involved, with what I can see ahead for "project A" (in fact, a fair amount of overlap)...since the techniques of training, as well as what skills, knowledge, and procedures to teach, are all important to the job of increasing human capability. I plan to devote time to coordinating ideas with them, and perhaps helping in an active way to plan and promote in the "Training Lab" field.
B. Special Requests
I assume that, if I wanted to do some smallscale experimenting during these months, that I could get a technician on a regular basis (part or full time) to construct and operate special devices for me. As it happens, I do want to do some of this, only it is experimentation with data systems rather than with hardware, and so the "technician" is of different sort than usual. I want to experiment with fixedprocedure personaldata handling techniques that involve more work than a person can (or is likely to find practical to) do for himself and I would like regular help of a special sort to construct and operate the systems. I think that half time would be quite satisfactory for the time being, and I have located a very satisfactory person who is already on the SRI temporaryemployee roster (as Research Assistant). She seems to have a very good background in formal and general processing of a sort that interests me, and she is very willing to begin on a parttime basis. (Mrs. Viona Duncan, who has been working in Econ. Div. on an oncall basis. Bob Shreve hired her and has her records).
I should also like to consider acquiring possibly two or three Stenorettes, some filing equipment (especially for cards), another typewriter, and some miscellaneous electronic components (switches, headset, transistor circuits) in the way of capital equipment, and to consider some special design and wiring of auxiliary gadgets (for which I would need a few weeks of an electronic technician's time). Something less than $1,500 for all of this, I think.
D. C. Engelbart