"The Mother of All Demos," Onstage Again Douglas Engelbart in "the mother of all demos," 1968.

"The Mother of All Demos," Onstage Again

Jenna Simeonov

More relevant art! This week at Stanford University, composers and performers Mikel Rouse and Ben Neill present the world premiere of their music theatre piece, The Demo. The piece is based on the true story of Douglas Engelbart's demonstration of new technology in 1968, in which he introduced the idea of hypertext and even the very first mouse. Engelbart led the demonstration remotely from his office 30 miles away, via videoconferencing and screen-sharing, two more huge steps forward in technology. The presentation became aptly known as "the mother of all demos."

In their electronic opera, The Demo, Engelbart is played by Rouse, and Neill plays William English, Engelbart's technical assistant. They use the full 100-minute video from that conference in 1968, and "the typed text of the original demo serves as the libretto for the vocals, performed by Rouse and others, the technical jargon as opera supertitles." This text included things like grocery lists and fragments of code.

It looks like a cool way of telling a fascinating story, one that may be a generation too old for many of us, but undoubtedly has relevance today. Find out more about it right here, and watch some of The Demo here. For readers in the Stanford, CA, area, the world premiere is April 1-2, at the Bing Concert Hall.


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