Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Nerds 2.0.1
[section buttons]
Serving the Suits
[page buttons]

Xerox PARC

At the turn of the decade in 1970, big business was taking another look at the impact of computers. During the sixties, computers were mostly restricted to the air-conditioned back rooms of major research centers, but smaller and more affordable computers were starting to show up in offices. Xerox was afraid that their products, mostly copiers and typewriters, would disappear from a paper-less office. Xerox realized that they couldn't be surprised by the office of the future if they were the ones to build it.

Bob Taylor Bob Taylor was hired to help build a new research center for Xerox, where the best minds would do nothing but forge the future of computers and technology. Taylor wanted the new center near a major university where new ideas were already being created, so he broke ground near Stanford University in Palo Alto for Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). He recruited some of the researchers he funded before, including Jerry Elkind and Severo Ornstein from BBN.

The atmosphere at PARC was electric, where some of the best technologists and scientists worked on their own dreams of the future. Their research was funded from the growing profits of Xerox, which was quickly approaching the size of IBM, therefore project budgets were nearly unlimited.

Two of the researchers at PARC, Butler Lampson and Chuck Thacker, worked on a project to put a computer on every person's desk. The computer, called an Alto, was really the first small personal computer that could be used in a business environment. They didn't really know how useful Alto would be, but it was their job to discover the future. Several of the Altos were built and given to PARC's staff to see what they would do with the computers.

Computer Communication Compatibilityarrow


Nerds Home
Networking the Nerds | Serving the Suits | Wiring the World
Cast of Characters | Glossary of Geek | Timeline

Copyright © 1998, PBS Online, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Site Designed and Developed by OPB Learning Media

OPB online PBS online Wiring the World Networking the Nerds Nerds Home Page Computer Communication Compatibility Serving the Suits