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PARC
Founded 1970
Headquarters Palo Alto, California, USA
Industry R&D
Parent Xerox
Website www.parc.com
PARC entrance.
Xerox PARC old logo.

PARC (Palo Alto Research Center Incorporated), formerly Xerox PARC, is a research and development company in Palo Alto, California with a distinguished reputation for its contributions to information technology.

Founded in 1970 as a division of Xerox Corporation, PARC has been responsible for such well known and important developments as laser printing, the Ethernet, the modern personal computer graphical user interface (GUI), ubiquitous computing, and advancing very-large-scale-integration (VLSI).

Incorporated as a wholly owned subsidiary of Xerox in 2002, PARC currently conducts research into biomedical technologies, "clean technology", user interface design, sensemaking, ubiquitous computing, large area electronics, and embedded and intelligent systems.

Contents

History

In 1969, Chief Scientist at Xerox Jack Goldman approached Dr. George Pake, a physicist specializing in nuclear magnetic resonance and provost of Washington University, about founding and generously funding a second research center for the company.

Dr. Pake selected Palo Alto, California, as the site of what was to become known as PARC. While the 3,000 mile buffer between it and Xerox headquarters in New York afforded scientists at the new lab great freedom to undertake their work, the distance also served as an impediment to persuade management of the promise of some of their greatest achievements.

PARC's West Coast location proved to be advantageous in the mid-'70s, when the lab was able to hire many employees of the nearby SRI Augmentation Research Center as that facility's funding from DARPA, NASA, and the U.S. Air Force began to diminish. The location, address 3333 Coyote Hill Road, is in the Stanford Research Park, land leased from Stanford University. [1] This proximity allowed Stanford graduate students to be involved in PARC research projects, and PARC scientists to collaborate with academic seminars and projects such as the Internet.

Much of PARC's early success in the computer field was under the leadership of its Computer Science Laboratory manager Bob Taylor, who guided the lab as associate manager from 1970–77 and as manager 1977–83.

PARC today

After two decades as a division of Xerox, PARC was transformed in 2002 into a wholly owned subsidiary company dedicated to developing and maturing advances in science and business concepts with the support of commercial sponsors and clients.

As of 2004, Xerox remained the company's largest customer, but PARC had also announced a multi-year relationship with Fujitsu and an entrance into biomedical sciences in partnership with the Scripps Research Institute of La Jolla, CA.

Among the fields PARC currently conducts research into are: biomedical technologies, "clean technology", user interface design, sensemaking, ubiquitous computing, large area electronics, and embedded and intelligent systems.

Accomplishments

In addition to developing the laser printer, PARC has been the incubator of many elements of modern personal computing including:

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The Alto

Most of these developments were included in the Alto, which added the now familiar SRI-developed mouse[2] unifying into a single model most aspects of now-standard personal computer use. The integration of Ethernet prompted the development of the PARC Universal Packet architecture, much like today's Internet.

The GUI

Xerox has been heavily criticized (particularly by business historians) for failing to properly commercialize and profitably exploit PARC's innovations. A favorite example is the GUI, initially developed at PARC for the Alto and then commercialized as the Xerox Star by the Xerox Systems Development Department. Although very significant in terms of its influence on future system design, it is deemed a failure because it only sold approximately 25,000 units. A small group from PARC led by David Liddle and Charles Irby formed Metaphor Computer Systems. They extended the Star desktop concept into an animated graphic and communicating office automation model and sold the company to IBM.

Adoption by Apple

The first successful commercial GUI product was the Apple Macintosh, which was heavily inspired by PARC's work; Xerox was allowed to buy pre-IPO stock from Apple in exchange for engineer visits and an understanding that Apple would create a GUI product. Much later, in the midst of the Apple v. Microsoft lawsuit in which Apple accused Microsoft of violating its copyright by appropriating the use of the "look and feel" of the Macintosh GUI, Xerox also sued Apple on the same grounds. The lawsuit was dismissed because Xerox had waited too long to file suit, and the statute of limitations had expired.[3]

Distinguished Researchers

Among PARC's distinguished researchers were three Turing Award winners: Butler W. Lampson (1992), Alan Kay (2003) and Charles P. Thacker (2009). The ACM Software System Award recognized the Alto system in 1984, Smalltalk in 1987, InterLisp in 1992, and Remote Procedure Call in 1994. Lampson, Kay, Bob Taylor, and Charles P. Thacker received the National Academy of Engineering's prestigious Charles Stark Draper Prize in 2004 for their work on the Alto.

Other influential PARC figures

PARC legacy

PARC's developments in information technology have had great long-term impact. Once the merits of interfaces and technology pioneered by PARC became widely known they evolved into standards for much of the computing industry. Many advances were not equalled or surpassed for two decades, enormous timespans in the fast-paced high tech world.

While there is some truth that Xerox management failed to see the potential of many of PARC's inventions, it is an over-simplification to generalize. The larger reality is that computing research was a relatively small part of PARC's operation. Its materials scientists pioneered LCD and optical disc technologies, others invented laser printing, each of which proved great successes when introduced to the business and consumer marketplaces.

While not of the same order, the oft-overlooked work at PARC since the early 1980s includes some noteworthy advances in ubiquitous computing, aspect-oriented programming, and IPv6.

References

  1. ^ Map of Stanford Research Park on Stanford University Real Estate web site
  2. ^ Xerox PARC was the first research group to widely adopt the mouse invented by Douglas Engelbart's Augmentation Research Center at the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) in Menlo Park, California
  3. ^ "Most of Xerox's Suit Against Apple Barred". The New York Times. 1990-03-24. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE3D91E38F937A15750C0A966958260. Retrieved 2008-12-01. 

Further reading

  • Michael A. Hiltzik, Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age (HarperCollins, New York, 1999) ISBN 0-88730-989-5
  • Douglas K. Smith, Robert C. Alexander, Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, Then Ignored, the First Personal Computer (William Morrow, New York, 1988) ISBN 1-58348-266-0
  • M. Mitchell Waldrop, The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal (Viking Penguin, New York, 2001) ISBN 0-670-89976-3
  • Howard Rheingold, Tools for Thought (MIT Press, 2000) ISBN 0-262-68115-3

External links

Coordinates: 37°24′11″N 122°08′56″W / 37.403°N 122.149°W / 37.403; -122.149


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