05/12/2021

028 – The enabler – 1966

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The creation of the ARPAnet was not motivated by considerations of war.
The ARPAnet was not an internet.
An internet is a connection between two or more computer networks. Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor served in the US Navy during the Korean War then returned to complete a degree in psychology at the University of Texas.  His early work was in brain research, and then after a poorly paid stint as a teacher he joined NASA in 1961.

At NASA he met Doug Engelbart and directed some of the funding for ARC from NASA and helped with the technology to present the ‘Mother of all Demos’.

Lick Licklider lured Taylor to join ARPA and its IPTO operation, where he worked under Ivan Sutherland, and in 1966 became IPTO director. 

Taylor was in charge of the largest US budget for research, and responsible for distributing it to USA colleges/ esearch laboratories.

He became aware that many were working in similar areas but there was no means to cross-fertilise ideas.  He assembled the players and gave each the opportunity to present their ideas for an hour; their peers would then comment or challenge the notions.

In this way Taylor was able to watch and gauge where gems might be found; he would apply this same approach later at PARC.  Located in the Pentagon, Taylor had three terminals connecting him with the CTSS at MIT, SDC in Santa Monica and Project Genie at University of California Berkeley. 

Each was completely autonomous with its own log-in procedures and with no means of interconnection.  Taylor despaired at the proliferation of terminals as more projects were supported.

1966 He proposed that a network was required and was awarded $1m to pursue the idea; this led eventually to the ARPANET.  Recognising his lack of knowledge, he lured Larry Roberts to join him.  In October 1966 Roberts and Thomas Marill outlined a tender document entitled ‘Cooperative Network of Time-Sharing Computers’.

1968 Taylor linked with Licklider to release an influential paper entitled ‘The Computer as a Communication Device’.  This suggested how the ARPANET should evolve into what is now the Internet. 

‘In a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face.’

When Taylor felt that ARPA was being directed more towards military research he left, spending a year at the University of Utah before moving to Xerox PARC; he was able to apply his broad knowledge of the research scene.  He knew the leading lights and the most promising venues of development.  He soon used his contacts list to recruit an amazing team of individuals to join him at PARC CSL

This recruitment was assisted by PARC’s location which enabled collaboration with a host of graduates at Stanford.  It was also well-timed, benefiting from problems at Engelbart’s ARC and recruiting a number of its disenchanted team. Better still, the Berkeley Computer Corporation’s demise came at just the right moment. 

Butler Lampson, an operating system designer, and Chuck Thacker, a hardware designer, would become Turing Award winners for their subsequent work at PARC.  It was to be PARC that would develop the techniques of personal computing, graphics user interfaces, Ethernet networking, laser printing…

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