An internet pioneer who helped to shape our modern world
April 18, 2017 12:00 AM
Palo Alto Research Center via The New York Times
In an undated photo, Robert Taylor at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center in Palo Alto, Calif.
By Ced Kurtz / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Robert Taylor was a federal bureaucrat, but he was also a visionary who used his position and government money to change the world.
Mr. Taylor, who died last week at 85, could be called the father of the internet.
When he went to work in 1966 at the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, Mr. Taylor had to use three terminals on three separate networks to communicate with his three computer research projects. He thought there should be one network to link all of them.
So he went to his boss, who gave him $1 million from the ballistic missile defense budget to establish the Arpanet, which eventually became the internet. He continued to support and encourage the expanding of the original nodes of the internet, adding more universities, including Carnegie Mellon.
Even before that, in 1961, Mr. Taylor, then a project manager at NASA, heard about Douglas Engelbart’s study of human-computer interaction. He guided money to the project and the result was the computer mouse.
After he left federal employ, he joined the new Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, or PARC, in California, working on graphics-based personal computing. Mr. Taylor’s team built a prototype personal computer called the Alto, which pioneered the form of the personal computer to come.
He then created and ran the Digital Equipment Systems Research Laboratory, which helped create one of the first search engines, AltaVista.
Mr. Taylor and J.C.R. Licklider, a psychologist and computer scientist, wrote a paper in 1968, “The Computer as a Communications Device,” which outlined how computer networks might transform society.
Mr. Taylor helped to make our modern world what it is today.
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