Robert Taylor, Computer And Internet Pioneer, Passes Away At 85


Modern interconnected life would not have been possible if it wasn't for Robert Taylor, pioneer of the modern internet. The innovator passed away on April 13 at the age of 85.

Taylor ushered the development of the Arpanet in 1966, the precursor to today's internet. He was also responsible for the development of the mouse and graphical user interface, two features that made personal computers such as Windows and Mac possible.

Taylor died of Parkinson's disease at his home in Woodside, California. He is survived by his three sons and three grandchildren.

Arpanet: The Granddaddy Of Internet

In 1965, while working as director of Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) for Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), he found the constant switching of terminals to communicate with fellow researchers to be cumbersome. This frustration would later revolutionize modern life as we know it today.

His solution: a single computer network that connected all the computers in his department. It was called the Arpanet. Charlie Herzfeld, then-head of ARPA, poured in a portion of the ballistic missiles project to fund Arpanet.

Taylor liked the success of his project he predicted that one day it will be an essential part of human life.

"In a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face," he wrote for The Computer as a Communication Device paper in 1968. In his paper, he also coined the word "on-line," and argued that the internet be open to everyone, not just a privilege of the "favored segment of the population." And the rest they say was history.

Alto: The Forerunner Of Personal Computers

In 1970, Taylor moved to California to work for the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) of Xerox. There, he led the design and creation of Alto, considered to be the first personal computer. The Xerox Alto supported an operating system that featured a design that allowed better interaction with users: the graphical user interface (GUI). The GUI would later inspire Apple's Lisa and, eventually, the Macintosh systems.

Taylor's tenure at PARC also led to the development of the Ethernet, the computing technology that connected computers to a network. In 1961, as project manager at NASA, he learned about the work of a Stanford engineer named Douglas Engelbart, who was researching on the direct interaction between computers and humans. Taylor helped fund Engelbart's research, which later led to the invention of the mouse.

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