Robert Taylor: Computer & Internet pioneer

Robert William Taylor, known as Bob Taylor a computer scientist who was instrumental in the creation of the internet and modern computer, has died on Thursday, April 13, 2017, He was 85.

Robert Taylor

Biographical Synthesis:

Robert William Taylor was born on February 10, 1932, in Dallas (Texas) and was adopted by Rev. Reymond Taylor, a Methodist minister, and his wife Audrey.

He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in experimental psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. It was there while working on his master’s thesis in experimental psychology, Taylor was dismayed to find that computers of the day were focused on arithmetic and business data processing. They were not interactive; they were clumsy to use and were severely limited in their application. He soon chose to dedicate his career to re-defining computing with a focus on interactive communication, networking, and search technology.

Computer related contributions:
  • Project Manager for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in 1961. He directed funding to Douglas Engelbart at the Stanford Research Institute, later called SRI International, who helped develop the modern computer mouse.
  • Director of ARPA‘s (Advanced Research Projects Agency)Information Processing Techniques Office from 1965 through 1969. At that time, ARPA funded most of the nation’s computer systems research. Taylor’s ARPA work is best known for his initiation of the ARPAnet, for sponsoring the continued development of interactive computing, and for funding the research base that was necessary to the creation of the nation’s first Ph.D. granting computer science departments. 
  • In 1968 Mr. Taylor and Dr.Licklider wrote a paper together, “The Computer as a Communications Device“, which drew the broad outlines of how computer networks might transform society.
  • Founder and manager of Xerox PARC‘s (Palo Alto Research Center) Computer Science Laboratory (CSL) from 1970 through 1983. CSL researchers became known worldwide for a number of important innovations necessary to the creation of the Internet. CSL invented and built Ethernet, the laser printer, and the PUP (PARC Universal Packet) protocol. PUP was introduced seven years in advance of the implementation of the Internet protocol, TCP/IP. Within Xerox, all of these technologies enabled the construction of the first internet.

    CSL also designed and built the Alto, the first networked personal computer. It was the first to support a graphical user interface, complete with mouse and a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) word processor and which was the antecedent of Microsoft Word. The Alto also contained an early page description language, the antecedent of Adobe’s Postscript. 

    In the 1970s, a number of companies essential to the building of the Internet outside Xerox did not exist: Adobe, Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, Sun, and 3Com were among them. In the 1980s, the early products from all these new companies were based primarily on software and technology created in CSL. All of this work occurred during the period of 1970 to 1983 when Taylor led CSL.

  • Founder and manager of Digital Equipment Corporation’s Systems Research Center (SRC) until 1996. SRC also became a world-class research center. It was best known for advancing distributed personal computing, high-performance/high-reliability local area networks, and search engine technology. The Alta Vista search engine created two years before Google. Taylor retired in 1996
Honors and awards:
  • National Academy of Engineering Draper Prize (2004)
  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation (1999)
  • ACM Software Systems Award (1984)

“The Internet is not about technology; it’s about communication. The Internet connects people who have shared interests, ideas, and needs, regardless of geography.”

Mr. Taylor died of complications of Parkinson’s disease, on Thursday, April 13, 2017

Source: computerhope, computerhistory, wikipedia, ecured, nytimes, theguardian, seattletimes

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