September 20, 2010, 11:35 AM — Since its founding as Xerox PARC in 1970, Palo Alto Research Center has been home to several of computing's most important inventions and technological advancements . Thousands of researchers and scientists from a wide range of disciplines have gathered at PARC over the past 40 years, sharing their theories on everything from how computers can better talk to each other to how clean technologies can be used to address critical manufacturing problems.
Both before and after its spinoff from Xerox in 2002, PARC has been a global leader in research and development on behalf of a wide variety of companies and institutions. Additionally, PARC has launched dozens of companies -- including e-paper display manufacturer Gyricon Media, data visualization and analytics tools provider Inxight Software and collaboration software maker LiveWorks -- that market products and technologies developed at PARC.
So what has PARC brought to the world of IT? Here are some of the computing-related highlights of the company's first 40 years:
1971: The process of laser printing with a bitmapped electronic image on a xerographic copier drum is developed at PARC.
The Xerox Alto prompted related innovations including WYSIWYG editors, GUIs, bitmapped displays and simultaneous file storage.Click to view larger image.
1972: The object-oriented programming language Smalltalk is created at PARC to make it possible to improve computer programs without completely rewriting them.
1973: The Xerox Alto personal workstation, one of the first personal computers, is created, mostly for internal use at PARC. The Alto's development led to many related innovations in computing, including the world's first WYSIWYG (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get) editor, the first graphical user interface (GUI) and the first bitmapped display (see below).
PARC also begins developing Ethernet networking -- now a worldwide standard -- to connect computers and printers in a local-area network.
A partial sketch of Ethernet schematics by co-inventor Bob Metcalfe.Click to view larger image.
1974: Cut-and-paste, bitmapped editing protocols are created for formatting computer files in a WYSIWYG manner, as with the Bravo word processing program, which was also introduced at PARC this year.
1975: PARC debuts the GUI with icons, pop-up menus and overlapping windows, controlled with point-and-click interaction. It became the basis for the GUIs we use today.