Robert Taylor was one of the preeminent founding fathers of the Internet and the personal computer as we know them both today.
Taylor died last Thursday, in his San Francisco home, said his son, Kurt Taylor. Taylor had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease, and other ailments in recent years.
Leslie Berlin from the Silicon Valley Archives project at Stanford University told the New York Times: “Any way you look at it, from kick-starting the Internet to launching the personal computer revolution, Bob Taylor was a key architect of our modern world.”
Vision of the future
It was while working at the Pentagon in the 1960s that Taylor instigated the creation of the Arpanet computer network that linked together four separate US research centers. Arpanet later involved into the Internet.
Rather than any one glorious vision of the future, Taylor helped create the Internet forerunner out of his frustration at having to use three separate terminals on three incompatible systems to communicate with researchers through their computer systems.
“I just decided that we were going to build a network that would connect these interactive communities into a larger community in such a way that a user of one community could connect to a distant community as though that user were on his local system,” he said years later.
Pentagon, NASA, Xerox
After working for both the Pentagon, and then NASA, Taylor went on to become a leading figure at Xerox’s famous Palo Alto Research Center, where he managed the team that helped create the Alto, a pioneering personal computer and one of the first of its kind.
Taylor would eventually go on to help found DEC. (Digital Equipment Company) It was there that he helped create one of the earliest internet search engines, Alta Vista. He was also responsible for shepherding in the coding language that would eventually become Java.
Taylor retired in the mid 90s, but once reflected on his most famous legacy, the internet, that among other things: “My timing was awful… I didn’t anticipate [it would be used for] pornography and crime.”