Taylor oversaw the development of key technologies including the Internet, the graphical user interface, an early search engine and Java
Robert Taylor, who was involved in the development of everything from the modern computer mouse to the Internet, has died.
Taylor, who had Parkinson’s, died aged 85 at his home in Woodside in the San Francisco penninsula, his son, Kurt Taylor, told the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.
The computer mouse and the Internet
He studied psychology at university, but went on to work as an engineer at several aircraft companies before joining Nasa.
As a project manager there in 1961 he directed funding to Dougles Engelbart at the Stanford Research Institute, who contributed to the development of the computer mouse.
Taylor joined the US Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Project Agency (Arpa) in 1965, at a time when it directed most of the country’s computer technology development.
As director of Arpa’s Information Processing Techniques Office, Taylor set out to standardise the way the Pentagon communicated with the timeshared mainframe computers at three research institutions.
At the time each of the organisations used a different, and incompatible, communications system.
Arpanet, the system he devised, later became the basis for the Internet.
The networked, graphical PC, Word, Internet search and Java
Once Arpanet had been activated in 1969 Taylor left the Department of Defense and in 1970 he founded the Computer Science Laboratory of Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (Parc).
At Parc Taylor’s team built the Alto, designed to provide individual researchers with access to a personal workstation, instead of sharing time on a room-sized mainframe.
As the prototype for the personal computer, the Alto included a number of groundbreaking innovations, such as a graphical user interface, a network link and a ball-driven mouse.
Development of the Alto’s Bravo software, a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) word processor, was led by Charles Simonyi, who later joined Microsoft and created Word.
Taylor left Xerox in 1983 and took some of its staff to Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), where he helped create AltaVista, an early Internet search engine, and a computer language that became Java, finally retiring in 1996.
He is survived by Kurt as well as two other sons, Erik and Derek, and three grandchildren.
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