School of Information Science - Hall of Fame

Robert W. Taylor
  • Robert W. Taylor
  • Born: 1932
  • Field: Computer networks; Internet; personal computers; graphical-user interfaces
  • Focus: Led development of ARPANet, the Xerox Alto and Dorado personal computers, and numerous related and subsequent technologies of great significance to the evolution of modern computing.
  • Country: United States
  • Era: 1970 to 1989

Robert Taylor is famous for a variety of important contributions to the computing industry. As director of the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) of the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in the 1960s, Taylor conceived of and directed funding and development for ARPAnet. Working with J.C.R. Licklider, he was instrumental in the development of ARPAnet, the first packet-based network and direct ancestor of today's Internet.

In 1970, shortly after leaving ARPA, Taylor founded and managed the Computer Science Laboratory at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), where he made his most recognized contributions. An acknowledged genius at assembling and guiding outstanding teams of gifted researchers, Taylor recruited such industry luminaries as Alan Kay, Butler Lampson, and Charles Thacker. The PARC team was ultimately credited with development of the first networked personal computers (the Alto and Dorado), which included such groundbreaking technologies as a windows-based graphical user interface and "what you see is what you get" (WYSIWYG) word-processing. The team also developed built-in network interfaces, bit-mapped displays, removable disks, the keyboard, and the mouse. Their electronics and software also led to development of the laser printer.

Taylor left PARC after 13 years, having watched Xerox "fumble the future" of computing technology and innumerable other companies capitalize on his team's developments. In 1884, he founded the Systems Research Center (SRC) at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), which he managed until his retirement in 1996. SRC developed the first multiprocessor workstation, the first fault-tolerant switched local area network, a precursor to the Java language, and the first electronic book. He continues to serve as Director Emeritus, SRC, Compaq Computer Corporation (now managed by Hewlett-Packard).

In 1984, Taylor received the Software Systems Award from the Association for Computing Machinery. In 1999, he was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Clinton "for visionary leadership in the development of modern computing technology . . . and groundbreaking achievements in the development of the personal computer and computer networks." In 2004, he and his teammates at PARC were awarded the Charles Stark Draper Prize by the National Academy of Engineering "for the vision, conception, and development of . . . the world's first practical networked personal computers."

Robert Taylor was born and raised in Texas, where he was adopted by a Methodist minister and his wife. After attending the Southern Methodist University and serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, he obtained B.A. and M.A. degrees in experimental psychology from the University of Texas. Taylor is a fellow of the ACM and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

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