In 1979, when I was leaqving Datapro to becme a consultant, I had two contracts in my back pocket, to get started with. One was working on a design problem for a vendor; the other was writing an overview of the Text Processing market (what we called word processing, in our more formal moments), for clients of the consulting firm Diebold.
As part of this assignment, Dean Myers of Diebold arranged for me to spend three days with Doug Engelbart at his Augmentation Laboratory (by then owned by Tymshare) and learn about the subject of augmentation and Doug's collaborative information system directly from Doug and his team. I knew a lot about text/word processing and, in fact, had met nearly all the commercial providers of software and services, writing about them in Datapro's Word Processing service, which I edited.
I had no idea how different Doug's invention would be than everything I had known until then.
The timing is particular: I had agreed to chair an NCC conference on Office Automation, kicking off in March, 1980 -- the report for Diebold was due in January, 1980. The Internet existed and, in fact, the conference's program committee used it to help put the conference proceedings together but we never guessed the connections: that the Internet and the invention of personal computing (then in its infancy) would together provide a foundation for many collaborative environments.
There is a strong (and not unknown line) stretching from Vandever Bush's Memex notion to Doug Engelbart, to all of the strongly linked collaboration tools we use today. I understood some of it much sooner than some of my peers because I had the privilege of sitting with Doug and his team for three days in early 1980, having the master explain his work.
His ideas have many children, from Lotus Notes to many social networks like Linked In and Facebook; we do not know yet how far our easy access to information and to each other may go. I like to think the journey is the adventure and I have always thought of Doug Engelbart gratefully for adding no small bit to my education.