The Demo is a music theater work written by composer/performers Mikel Rouse and Ben Neill based on Douglas Engelbart’s historic 1968 demonstration of early computer technology. Performances have been presented at the University of Illinois Krannert Center, Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University, and the University of Kansas Lied Center.

Engelbart’s 1968 demo rolled out virtually everything that would define modern computing; videoconferencing, hyperlinks, networked collaboration, digital text editing, and something called a “mouse.” The Demo re-imagines Engelbart’s historic demonstration as a technologically-infused music theater piece, a new form of hybrid performance.

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 typed text of the original demo serves as the libretto for the vocals, performed by Rouse and others, repurposing the technical jargon as opera supertitles. Video scenes that evoke important elements in Engelbart’s personal journey, including the epiphanies which set him on the course that would ultimately result in “the mother of all demos,” are interspersed throughout the piece

The work culminates in a futuristic ending which projects Engelbart’s technological vision into the future. Engelbart has been described as a gentle, dreamy character with a utopian idealism. The Demo creates a sense of dreaming forward and backward through music, performance, and digital video within the frame of the original 1968 presentation.