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Taylor (Robert W.) papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Preferred Citation
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Scope and Contents

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
    Title: Robert W. Taylor papers
    Creator: Taylor, R. W. (Robert William), 1932-2017
    source: Taylor, Kurt H.
    Identifier/Call Number: M2281
    Physical Description: 22.2 Linear Feet 44 boxes
    Physical Description: 2.5 terabyte(s) CLOSED until processed
    Date (inclusive): 1932-2017
    Abstract: Papers and materials related to the work and life of Robert W. Taylor. Topics covered include ARPA and the birth of Arpanet; Xerox PARC, particularly the Computer Science Laboratory and the Systems Science Laboratory; and Digital Equipment Corporation's Systems Research Laboratory.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Open for research. Note that material must be requested at least 36 hours in advance of intended use. Audiovisual materials are not available in original format, and must be reformatted to a digital use copy. Born-digital material in Series 14's hard drive is CLOSED until processed.

    Conditions Governing Use

    While Special Collections is the owner of the physical and digital items, permission to examine collection materials is not an authorization to publish. These materials are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. Any transmission or reproduction beyond that allowed by fair use requires permission from the owners of rights, heir(s) or assigns.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    This collection was given by Kurt H. Taylor to Stanford University, Special Collections in October, 2017.

    Preferred Citation

    [identification of item], Robert W. Taylor papers (M2281). Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

    Biographical / Historical

    Robert William Taylor (February 10th, 1932 – April 13th, 2017) was a project manager, executive director, and laboratory chief known for overseeing a number of advances in personal computing and internet technology throughout the tenure of his career. Though not a trained computer scientist, Robert Taylor worked with many influential teams, engineers, and scientists in the world of computer technology, including J.C.R. Licklider, Charles Thacker, Butler Lampson, Alan Kay, Paul Baran, Douglas Engelbart, Robert Metcalfe, Ivan Sutherland, and Leslie Lamport.
    Taylor's directorial and managerial work at the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), and Digital Equipment Corporation's Systems Research Center (SRC) from the 1960s through the 1990s put him at the center of the early days of the internet and personal computing; he was directly involved with such influential technology and systems as ARPAnet (the predecessor to the modern internet), Ethernet, the computer mouse, graphical user interfaces, the Xerox Alto (considered the world's first personal computer), WYSIWYG word processing, and laser printers.
    Born in Dallas, Texas in 1932, Taylor graduated from Mercedes High School in Mercedes, Texas in 1948 at the age of 16. He attended Southern Methodist University before joining the US Naval Reserve. After his active service ended, Taylor returned to college and eventually earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. Taylor went on to take a number of engineering and research positions with companies such as Martin Marietta and ACF Industries before taking a position as project manager at NASA's Office of Advanced Research and Technology in Washington, D.C.. In 1962, while working at NASA as a project manager, Taylor directed funding towards Douglas Engelbart's "oN-Line System" (NLS) project at Stanford Research Institute (later SRI International), which led to innovations such as the computer mouse and hypertext.
    In 1966, Robert Taylor joined the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), then the nation's largest computer systems research effort. At ARPA, Taylor worked under J.C.R. Licklider at the Information Processing Techniques Office. Licklider, known for his influential 1960 article "Man-Computer Symbiosis", shared a background in psychology and psychoacoustics with Taylor, and the pair authored the article "The Computer as a Communication Device" in 1968. During his tenure at ARPA, Taylor conceived of and oversaw ARPAnet, an attempt to connect different research networks under Taylor's purview that became the technical foundation for the internet.
    In 1970, Taylor moved to the Silicon Valley to join Xerox's new Palo Alto Research Center, which became known as Xerox PARC. As laboratory chief of Xerox PARC's Computer Science Laboratory (CSL), Taylor brought in a number of engineers and designers whom he knew from his research funding work at ARPA, including Butler Lampson, Charles Thacker, and Alan Kay. Taylor's team developed the Alto, considered the first personal computer as well as the basic model for later personal computing innovations such as Apple's Lisa computer and Microsoft's Windows system.
    After a series of disagreements with Xerox's executive management, Taylor resigned from his position at the company in 1983. His departure preceded a number of resignations from Xerox PARC, including engineers who came to join Taylor at his new position at Digital Equipment Corporation's Systems Research Center (SRC) in Palo Alto. Other members of Taylor's CSL team went on to do innovative work at companies such as Microsoft, Adobe Systems, 3Com, Sun Microsystems, and Apple. Taylor remained at Digital SRC until his retirement in 1996. Amongst the projects he oversaw at Digital SRC was AltaVista, an early internet search engine that achieved considerable popularity in the late 1990s.
    Robert W. Taylor was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 1999 and the National Academy of Engineering's Draper Prize in 2004, both in recognition of his contributions to the development of the internet and modern computing. In 2010, the University of Texas at Austin established the Robert W. Taylor Endowed Presidential Fellowship in Taylor's honor. He was additionally named an Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) Fellow in 1994 and a Fellow of the Computer History Museum in 2013.

    Scope and Contents

    The Robert W. Taylor papers contain memoranda, correspondence, technical documentation and specifications, photographs, slides, negatives, newspaper and magazine clippings, printed emails, notes, and a variety of media on tape and disc. The materials included range from 1932, the year of Taylor's birth, until 2017, the year of his death, with the bulk of the materials related to his work at the Department of Defense from 1966 – 1969, at Xerox PARC from 1970 – 1983, and at Digital SRC from 1983 – 1996.
    The papers contain significant documentation related to Digital SRC's equipment, facilities, staff, and marketing materials, with the 1990s at Digital SRC extensively represented through photographs, slides, and negatives. There are numerous publications written by Robert W. Taylor as well as articles about him or referring to him in newspapers, magazines, alumni documents, and award announcements. Items related to Taylor's National Medal of Technology and the associated ceremony, as well as other recognition he received later in life, are also included, as are various documents related to Taylor's employment at Howey Academy, the University of Utah, NASA, ACF Industries, and Martin Marietta, as well as his military service.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    ARPANET (Computer network)
    Silicon Valley
    Computer science.
    Computer industry--United States--History
    Taylor, Kurt H.
    Xerox Corporation. Palo Alto Research Center
    Digital Equipment Corporation. Systems Research Center
    Xerox PARC (Firm)
    Licklider, J. C. R.