Douglas Engelbart invented the first computer mouse and graphical user interface (GUI) in the 1960s, while working at the Stanford Research Institute on a U.S. Department of Defense grant. Before the mouse was invented, users had to type in text commands to manage computers. The Portland, Ore. native wanted to users to be able to interact directly with computer screens.
"We had a big heavy tracking ball, it was like a cannonball. We had several gadgets that ended up with pivots you could move around. We had a light panel you had to hold up right next to the screen so the computer could see it. And a joystick that you wiggle around to try to steer things," Engelbart told the BBC in 2001.
Engelbart filed for patent number 3,541,541 on June 21, 1967 for a "X-Y position indicator for a display system." To accompany his mouse, Engelbart developed the oN-Line System (NLS), which was the first practical use of hypertext -text on a computer that links to other text.
Some of the most famous examples of GUI in tech history include the first Apple and Microsoft operating systems, which were famously lifted from Xerox. Instead of text, graphics like icons and windows were used to navigate a computer.
Sources: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, National Inventors Hall of Fame