Not just Internet history buffs need to watch the 1968 film of Doug Engelbart's oNLine System ("NLS") demonstration. The 1-hour, 14-minute film is available on Google Video via this link. In fact, you'll see where the idea of 'this link' originated at Stanford Research Center under sponsorship of The Advanced Reasearch Projects Agency, NASA and The Air Force.
Richard MacManus, who blogs on ZDNet and writes the interesting "Read/Write Web" blog from Wellington, New Zealand, brought this to attention.
This film is primary-source computing & Internet history. It demonstrates where the business end of the W.I.M.P metaphor came from -- Window, Icon, Mouse, Pointer -- and it shows at least one point of origin of the hierarchical organization of textual linkages manipulated on a cathode-ray tube display.
When many people still believe the idea of the mouse came from Apple Computer in the late 1970's via Jef Raskin's work on the original Macintosh's user-interface, which is believed to have come from work at Xerox PARC, it is reassuring to connect the dots back to a true original. The work at PARC would have been an extension of Engelbart's work.
Based on my incomplete view of mouse development, I was also surprised to see nascent evidence of early deep thinking about remote collaboration across different systems networked together. In the film, Engelbart plays "mouse tag" with a colleague who is operating a similar machine back at home-office during the demo. This is an early expression of ideas of the remote desktop workspace-locking sort of collaboration we would later come to see borne out beautifully by Ray Ozzie and the team at Groove.net in the late 1990's, which is now a part of Microsoft.
It is startling to see such a full expression in 1968 of the basic capabilities we take for granted in networked PCs today appearing in a prototype machine built from scratch costing, as Engelbart says in the film, about $5,500. This amounted in 1968 to 65% of the median annual salary then (US Census).
The story arc from Engelbart to Amiga to Microsoft & Apple remains quite murky for younger folks who were not computer hobbyists in the mid-1970's, and it would be an interesting business & design case to follow. The story would have to include by extension all interface design ideas which Microsoft and Linux have continued to borrow in the 1980's and 1990's from Apple -- not least the recent copying of Mac OS X look, feel & features by Windows Vista. And our IBM friends can point us to any decent history of what the heck happened to OS/2 and where that fits in.