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Robert 'Bob' Taylor

Last Edit: 07/04/17

Robert 'Bob' Taylor was a pioneer of the Internet, due to his involvement in the creation of ARPANET. ARPANET was the first US packet switching network, and the basis upon which the Internet operates. Taylor was born in 1932, in the Lone Star state of Texas. Taylor saw action in the Korean War in the Navy, and when he returned to the U.S. he studied psychology, maths, philosophy and religion. Taylor would teach mathematics in the late 1950's but needed to search for better paid work due to a growing family. Taylor eventually found work at the aerospace defense contractor Glenn L. Martin Company in 1960, and was invited to work on the Apollo program soon after.

In the early 1960's Taylor met J. Licklider, who was director of the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) at ARPA; a defense research department. J. Licklider developed the concept of creating a 'global' computer network which would connect individuals, scientists and governments. J. Licklider persuaded Taylor to leave NASA and join ARPA. Licklider was replaced as the director of the IPTO by Ivan Sutherland in 1964. Sutherland and Taylor continued to quietly lobby ARPA for the creation of a wide area computer network. Taylor became the third director of the IPTO in 1966 - when he replaced Sutherland - and the 'dream' of Licklider came to fruition when Taylor received one million dollars in funding from ARPA to build a wide area computer network. Taylor eventually persuaded Larry Roberts - with the help of the ARPA director - to leave MIT and join ARPA in 1966 to build ARPANET. While Taylor would continue to provide oversight for the ARPANET project, it was Roberts who would have the 'hands on' task of building the network. ARPANET became operational in 1969, and Taylor was replaced by Roberts as the director of the IPTO in 1969.

While Taylor was not directly involved in the building ARPANET, he did author some important papers, such as "The Computer as a Communication Device", which he co-authored with J. Licklider. This paper began by stating: "In a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face. That is a rather startling thing to say, but it is our conclusion. As if in confirmation of it, we participated a few weeks ago in a technical meeting held through a computer. In two days, the group accomplished with the aid of a computer what normally might have taken a week." Without doubt, the modern Internet has achieved what was outlined in Taylor's and Lick's paper.

With the Vietnam War escalating under Nixon in 1969, Taylor was requested to investigate contradictory reports in Vietnam; ARPA, were, after all, an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, and he was probably called to investigate a technical communications issue. However, Taylor would not return to the IPTO, instead he would enter the commercial world at Xerox. Taylor would work at Xerox's PARC (Palo Alto Research Center Incorporated), a research lab that would be responsible for the development of many modern computing technologies: like Ethernet and the GUI. Taylor would work at PARC from 1970-1983, after which he would work for a range of tech firms in Palo Alto. Roberts retired in 1996, but he continued to commentate on the Internet and how it was evolving, voicing concerns about access and control.