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LBJ School Senior Lecturer Gary Chapman to Serve as Co-Master of Ceremony for "Conversations with Bob Taylor" Event


"The Internet has many fathers, but few deserve the label more than Robert W. Taylor."

-John Markoff, The New York Times

AUSTIN, Texas-- Aug. 25, 2009-- LBJ School Senior Lecturer Gary Chapman, Director of the 21st Century Project, Associate Director of the UT Telecommunications and Information Policy Institute  and long-time associate of Bob Taylor, will act as a co-master of ceremony with J Strother Moore, Professor with the Department of Computer Science, for the evening's event,  "Conversations with Bob Taylor." Co-sponsored by the 1910 Society and the Department of Computer Sciences Dell Lecture Series, taking place September 17, 2009 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the LBJ Auditorium, the event celebrates the 40th anniversary of the invention of the Internet and the 100th anniversary of the University of Texas at Austin Graduate School.

The event will feature a live interview of Taylor by John Markoff, technology reporter for The New York Times. Also included will be presentations by Michael A. Hiltzik, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of "Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age," and M. Mitchell Waldrop, author of The "Dream Machine," a book about the history of computing.

Many people consider Bob Taylor the real father of the Internet and the greatest director of research and development the country has ever seen. An Internet pioneer since 1967, his vision created a computing and communications revolution. Mr. Taylor earned his master’s degree at The University of Texas at Austin in 1964.

Bob Taylor was the first project manager and person most responsible for the creation of the first national network - the ARPAnet - which is universally regarded as the precursor to today's Internet. September 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the ARPAnet and the first byte exchange.

LBJ School Senior Lecturer Gary Chapman on Bob Taylor's Career

The first digital bits to be passed between two computers on the ARPAnet, the precursor to the Internet, were sent between UCLA and Stanford University in 1969, forty years ago.

This was the realization of the world-changing vision developed by University of Texas at Austin alumnus Bob Taylor, then the head of the ARPAnet project at the U.S. Department of Defense. Taylor described the problem he was trying to solve:

"For each of these three terminals, I had three different sets of user command," said Taylor.  "So if I was talking online with someone at S.D.C. and I wanted to talk to someone I knew at Berkeley or M.I.T. about this, I had to get up from the S.D.C. terminal, go over and log into the other terminal and get in touch with them. I said, oh, man, it's obvious what to do: If you have these three terminals, there ought to be one terminal that goes anywhere you want to go. That idea is the ARPAnet."

Taylor went on to build one of the most famous and influential careers in the history of computing, or indeed the history of research and development. He had co-authored in 1968 a landmark, breakthrough white paper, with his MiT mentor J.C.R. Licklider, with the straightforward and historic title, “The Computer as a Communications Device.” The first sentence of this paper was prophetic:

“In a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face,” said Taylor.

In the 1960s, this was a startling idea. Computers were then regarded as “number-crunching” machines, as giant calculators, and not as devices for communication. Taylor and the research he helped launch with the ARPAnet project changed that picture forever. There is an unbroken continuum of history between the ARPAnet and today’s global Internet, which is rapidly and dramatically changing everything around us.


The Xerox Alto

After leaving government service at the end of 1969, Taylor founded and then directed Xerox Corporation’s Computer Science Laboratory at the famed Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, or Xerox PARC.

 This facility, under Taylor’s leadership in the 1970s and 1980s, was the origin of many of the elements of computing and network communication that we take for granted today.

For example, Taylor shares (with Chuck Thacker and Butler Lampson) the Gold Medal of the Association for Computing Machinery for invention of the personal computer, the Xerox Alto, in 1973. The three also won the prestigious Draper Prize from the National Academy of Engineering in 2004. 

But Taylor’s lab at Xerox PARC was an integrated whole, pursuing early and groundbreaking advances in computer networking, word processing—Microsoft Word was based on Bravo, developed by Charles Simonyi for the Alto—desktop publishing, laser printing, and, most important of all, the by-now familiar interface for personal computers that led to the Macintosh and Microsoft Windows.

For these elements of his career, Taylor was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Bill Clinton in 1999. Taylor’s award was for "visionary leadership in the development of modern computing technology, including initiating the ARPAnet project -- forerunner of today's Internet -- and advancing groundbreaking achievements in the development of the personal computer and computer networks."

Bob Taylor’s master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin is in psychology, not computer science. His remarkable contribution to the world is not as a programmer or a technologist, but as a visionary about the future. And his message has always been about human communication.

 "The Internet is not about technology; it's about communication," said Taylor. "The Internet connects people who have shared interests, ideas and needs, regardless of geography."

I once asked Taylor if he could envision, when he launched the ARPAnet project, everything that was to follow. “Yes,” he said simply. Taylor and Licklider had already imagined, in their 1968 white paper, now-familiar concepts like “online communities,” e-commerce, and e-government. Taylor stuck with his earliest ideas, which have turned out to be true over 40 years: the Internet is all about communication, and it will continue to be.


LBJ School Senior Lecturer Gary Chapman on Bob Taylor's Impact on Public Policy

According to LBJ School Senior Lecturer Gary Chapman, Bob Taylor worked not only to direct the research that led to some of the most impactful technological advancements in modern history, but also worked to make sure policymakers understood the impact these technologies would have on a vast range of public policy issues.

Gary Chapman began his association with Bob Taylor in the late 1970s when Taylor was working at  the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center.

"I was hired by the non-profit public interest organization Computer Professionals for Social Responsibilty in 1984," said Chapman. "That was yet another thing that came out of Bob's lab. It was a product of some of his best researchers that needed an organization that addressed the impact of computers on society."

According to Chapman, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility was the first non-profit interest organization to grow because of the Internet.

"And we addressed a lot of public policy issues that were emerging because of the impact of this technology on society," said Chapman. "On issues like international security and privacy, civil liberties and international relations. We were trying to educate policymakers about these technologies, which many people did not understand, and did not understand the impact they were likely to have on society, that now we know was one of the most dramatic impacts that any of us will live to see."

According to Chapman, the technologies that emerged from Bob Taylor's research in the 1970s and 1980s  include most of what we use today in personal computing, including the basic interface that found it's way into the Macintosh and Microsoft Windows, desktop publishing, laser printing, and Microsoft Word.

"Bob is not a technologist per se because his background is in philosophy and psychology," said Chapman. "But he's got an extraordinary ability to see the future and to envision the future that technologists can make happen."

According to Chapman, Bob Taylor's white paper "The Computer as a Communications Device," is one of  the most famous and influential white papers ever written.

"And after that the technologies that flowered under his leadership ever after changed just about everything in the world."

Event Recap



Austin American Statesman - Internet Pioneer Bob Taylor to Speak at UT - September 12, 2009

Related Links:

"The Computer as a Communication Device" - April 1968 (PDF)

The Almanac - Building the Internet: Bob Taylor won the National Medal of Technology "For visionary leadership in the development of modern computing technology." - October 11, 2000