On December 9, 1968, a man named Douglas Engelbart gave a presentation on new computing technologies that is still considered one of the most epic demos in history.
Over the course of 90 minutes, Engelbart demonstrated things like videoconferencing, hyperlinks, networked collaboration, digital text editing, and even the mouse. For those watching, it was the first glimpse into the computing world we largely know today.
While this moment is still celebrated in tech circles, Mikel Rouse and Ben Neill, composers and performers, stumbled across a video of the event a few years ago. Watching the video inspired them to create “The Demo,” an opera that pays tribute to Engelbart.
“The Demo” debuts on April 1 and 2 at the Bing Auditorium at Stanford University. The pair describe the show as “a technologically-infused music theater piece, a new form of hybrid performance.” Engelbart actually made the presentation over a video feed, and in the show, the men recreate that dynamic by beaming the performers’ faces onto a giant video screen on the stage.
According to the official description:
Rouse portrays Engelbart in The Demo, while Neill plays his technical assistant, William English. Using the video of the original 1968 demo in its full 100 minute form, the artists are creating a piece built on the formal framework of this historic event.
The pair have been refining the piece in workshop performances, but the Stanford event will mark its official debut. Here’s a clip from one of those live workshops: