[ExI] patents was RE: simulation as an improvement over reality

spike spike66 at att.net
Fri Dec 24 18:17:07 UTC 2010

...  I will grant at the same time that the US Patent office seems to have
severe Alzheimers...spike

Good story for you guys that involves extropians and patents:  a few years
ago we got an invitation to a party at the home of Doug Englebart, the Xerox
PARC guy who invented the mouse and a bunch of other computer stuff.  So we
went up there and there were about thirty or so extropian types, the
cryonics crowd, sci-fi fans, the usual suspects that show up at these sorts
of events, but no Doug.  So I started asking around, who organized this and
where's Doug etc, and no one knew so I was scouting around trying to figure
out why we were having this big party at this guy's house and he isn't even

I started to suspect it was all bogus.  Perhaps someone knew he would be out
for the evening, rigged a big gag by inviting a bunch of yahoos, then the
cops show up and we all end up in jail for breaking and entering har har and
so forth.  We were there about a couple hours and still no host or home
owner, and I was just feeling a bit uneasy about the whole thing and started
to drift towards the door, when up shows Doug, assuring us it was all as
planned but he had another engagement earlier that evening, couldn't be
cancelled and yakkity yak and bla bla.  Then he ended up chatting with my
wife and me for about fifteen minutes right there in his own front entryway
before even greeting the other guests, then took us on a tour through his
house, showing us his computer inventions and so forth.

Then he excused himself and went off to bed.  Doug was about 80 at the time,
so his being tired is certainly understandable, but to retire for the
evening with about thirty geeks in his house was I thought extraordinary. To
let us have a party in his house while he was gone, then leave us as long as
we wanted to stay with no apparent person in charge.  Trusting sort.  {8-]
And about the nicest guy you ever met.

In any case: he was telling us about how much trouble he had in the late 60s
in patenting the mouse.  The Xerox PARC guys had an earlier version of the
mouse which had two parallel wheels for which Doug did get a patent, but it
wasn't a successful design.  There was a better version which he made from
inverting a trackball, writing the software to reverse the controls and
arranging the ergonomics to fit the hand.  Sound familiar?  Are you using
something like that right now?  Or did back in the 80s and 90s?  The
trademark office refused to give him a patent for that!  They argued that it
was just an upside down trackball with clever software, but they didn't
award trademarks or patents for software.  {8^D
Haaaahahahahahaaaaheeeheehehee.  {8-]  That is just too funny.  They
wouldn't give him a patent for an inverted track ball.  Eventually he
managed to get some rights to that, which he sold to another one of the
locals (Steve Jobs) for a song, when the patent for the trackball was still
active and expensive, which is why most PCs have a mouse instead of a
trackball to this day.  

Doug commented that later someone was awarded a patent for painting eyeballs
and whiskers on a computer mouse to make it look like a mouse.  The patent
office by that time not only awarded patents for software, but for painting
a mouse to look like a mouse.  Presumably if someone painted a mouse to look
like a mole or a rat, they could get yet another fresh patent.  Society's
attitude toward intellectual property has experienced a remarkable
revolution since Doug was a young inventor.



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