Xerox PARC: A nod to the minds behind the GUI, ethernet, laser printing, and more

By Julio Franco ยท 21 replies
Oct 20, 2016
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  1. Although we generally associate technological advancements with the companies that successfully commercialize them, there are often underappreciated bodies toiling away behind the curtain. In many cases over the last 40 years, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (today PARC) has been that hidden player, inventing many of today's ubiquitous technologies or refining them from abstract concepts.

    Launched as a development arm of Xerox Corporation in 1970, PARC has played an instrumental role in the engineering of laser printing and many of the technologies that compose the personal computer -- most famously the graphical user interface (GUI) used in the Xerox 8010 Star Information System in 1981, followed by the Apple Lisa. The team included many of the world's top computer scientists, not least of which were former employees of the Stanford Research Institute.

    Despite its vast industry contributions, the group has been criticized for failing to capitalize on its many innovations. While some of our older readers might be familiar with the prolific Palo Alto Research Center, we think its accomplishments have largely escaped the younger tech crowd. We'd like to take a few and give credit where credit's due.

    Read the complete article.

    jobeard likes this.
  2. Yes, a really great place that had a lot of good ideas and products that Gates and Jobs could build their companies from in the 70's. Between the hardware Xerox came up with and the Software (GUI)... Wondering If Hewlett or Packard visited the place too and got the idea of the laser printer and expensive ink/toner from them.
    Chris Wood likes this.
  3. Erik

    Erik TechSpot Staff Posts: 311   +18

    Very interesting article, It's always amazing to see how history repeats itself. Nice piece Matt!
  4. So instead of saying Microsoft or Apple is better/worse maybe we should just say thank you to all the PARC employees.
    jobeard and Chris Wood like this.
  5. Kinda sad that Xerox is best known as a copy machine brand rather than an innovator in personal computing.
  6. Just goes to show that it's not about ideas. It's about vision and marketing.
    jobeard and Chris Wood like this.
  7. Thank goodness there are still a few people around who recognize how much bs has been shoveled around about Apple and Steve Jobs. Since his death, Steve Jobs and Apple have been credited with inventing everything from the personal computer to the internet. And I'm really tired of hearing such lies. Unfortunately the very young and the uninformed believe most of that crap so it's refreshing to see the truth in print for a change. Go Xerox!
    Chris Wood, p51d007, J spot and 2 others like this.
  8. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,167   +986

    EXACTLY. The better mouse trap seldomly wins, but the better marketing team almost always does.

    Back when the Big Blue Mainframe was THE system (aka System/360) companies were afraid of being locked into IBM (justly so too).
    However, no manager was ever fired because he/she bought IBM - - the same could not be said for the competition.

    Xerox PARC management just didn't have the vision to see the ubiquitous nature of PCs; a sin that neither Gates nor Jobs suffered from.
  9. Blasphemy, all this was thanks to Apple.
  10. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,167   +986

    Sorry but, even as a proponent of Apple, I can tell you the story is true - - I was in Silicon Valley when it all occured.
    p51d007 likes this.
  11. Don't you know? Steve Jobs invented the universe.
    p51d007 likes this.
  12. I was a Xerox employee for 43 years and saw upper management run the company into the ground.Not using all the technology that was invented at Parc was only part of their mistakes. The company, Xerox, is only a shell of what is used to be. They no longer care about their employees current or retired.
    p51d007 likes this.
  13. 1949pilot

    1949pilot TS Rookie


    The sad thing is that Xerox is still out there, clawing their way to the bottom. When I started with them in 1972 they were 95 cents of every dollar spend worldwide for copying. Now they are in fourth place-being led down the path by the three musketeers. Sad indeed.
  14. 1949 pILOT, I too worked at Xerox, Cleveland Oh. Diamond Shamrock Bldg. LOVED it. I was amazd at the TECH being invented or enhanced. The STAR 8010. Networking. Mice. Problem is as someone said, TOP Management was selfServing. To think, had THEY beeen thinkers, they'd be FABULOUSLY rich as well as famous. Greed. Stupidity.
    Amazing how Apple's founder admitted ( youtube " I hired the wrong Guy ) Seeing this and having an Epiphany. Yet HE and HIS company is credited as creating the entire Nice. APPLE as JOBS admits OWES it LIFE to XEROX. JOBS admits it in th e interview. SOmhow I missed the HAND-HELD device . NEAT ONE.
  15. Too bad they have been ahead of their time. I guess such inventions won't pay big until they invent time travel. Think about it...
  16. yRaz

    yRaz Nigerian Prince Posts: 2,324   +1,421

    I can also see that as a proponent of Apple you do not recognize sarcasm
  17. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 3,350   +1,998

    Particularly since Jobs was just the Ad man at Apple when he and Wozniak started Apple. While Jobs lead the teams on the McIntosh, he certainly was not the brains behind it. That's not to take away from his leadership, but far too many people have been mislead into believing he was some kind of computer genius. Once Woz was booted out of the company, all Apple products became "closed systems" making it difficult to play with the guts, which most of us really enjoyed about the Apple, Apple ][ and Apple ][e. Contrary to popular belief, the Apple ][e could sit on the Apple Talk network and one little known fact was that the first IBM System 38 network was created by Apple to run their then factories ..... lots of innovation, but it didn't come from the top, not by any means.
  18. We owe a lot to the bright minds at Xerox. On the managerial side though, with the benefit of hindsight admittedly, there were some colossal misses at capitalizing on the talent they had and the products they developed.
    tomkaten likes this.
  19. Wizwill

    Wizwill TS Enthusiast Posts: 60   +16

    Almost every 'seminal' work has a predecessor, perhaps hidden, perhaps suppressed. Xerox was probably not the birthplace anymore than Apple. There were almost certainly many unsung minds whose innovative ideas informed the moneyed development of the 'official' creators. No matter, we have 'the stuff'.
  20. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,310   +651

    I started in the photocopying machine business in 81. I remember how hard it was to compete against X-Rocks
    because they even had the "brand" of "I need you to xerox this". But, I guess as you say, their upper management didn't know what they had, sat back on what they had and the competition just crushed them.
  21. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 1,935   +764

    Julio, personally I think that the article should have included Apple as a creation of Xerox Parc. Steve Jobs was documented on film as saying he visited Xerox Parc and then copied at least some of their technology and released it in the first Apple computers. Perhaps much better than the fictionalized Steve Jobs movie from 2015, is the documentary Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview released in 2012. IMO, its a fascinating look at Jobs when he actually had some humility and definitely worth watching if you get the chance. There appear to be copies of it on YouTube
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2016
  22. Vladislav

    Vladislav TS Rookie


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