JCS Chairman Holds Forth on Tweeting Toasters and the First Computer Mouse

Gen. Martin Dempsey lauds the work of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

In discussing the revolution in computer and network technology over the past 50 years at the Brookings Institution yesterday, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated that by next year his toaster will have an Internet connection.

“By this time next year I’m sure my toaster will be connected to the Internet and probably be tweeting about it. I can see it now -- hash-tag ‘burnedtoast@quarters6,’” Dempsey said.

He also pointed out that research backed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency helped spark that revolution. While we all know DARPA (not Al Gore) invented the Internet, Dempsey said DARPA-funded research also led to development of the computer mouse.

Forty-six years ago this week, Douglas Engelbart, a Stanford University researcher funded by DARPA, submitted a patent application titled “X-Y position indicator for a display system,” which Engelbart nicknamed a “mouse.”

There are more than a billion computer mice in use today, and Dempsey said their widespread use resulted from a Defense Department license to Apple of the Engelbart patent developed on the taxpayer dime “for a meager $40,000.”