Xerox PARC Research Center Looks Back on 40 Years of Invention

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Xerox PARC Research Center Looks Back on 40 Years of Invention

by Chris Preimesberger

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Simple Logo, Complex Work

PARC holds about 2,500 patents. Since 2002 it has been averaging about 150 patents filed per year with 1,300 patents granted. Commercial clients include DNP (Dai Nippon Printing), Fujitsu, Motorola, NEC Display Solutions, Microsoft Powerset, Samsung, SolFocus, Oracle and, of course, Xerox.

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Laser Printing, 1971

The laser printer, based on a modified xerographic copier, was invented at Xerox PARC by researcher Gary Starkweather, who had a fully functional networked printer system working by 1971. Laser printing eventually became a multibillion-dollar business for Xerox.

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The Alto Computer, 1973

In 1972, Xerox decided to produce a personal computer for research purposes. This became the Alto computer, the result of a joint effort by Ed McCreight, Chuck Thacker, Butler Lampson, Bob Sproull and Dave Boggs, who were attempting to make a device that was small enough to fit in an office comfortably yet powerful enough to support a reliable, high-quality operating system and graphics display. Its GUI featured windows and icons. A few years later, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak borrowed some of these ideas and started Apple Computer.

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Networking Genius, 1973-75

Bob Metcalfe did the research on high-speed networking at PARC in the 1970s and came up with something he called Ethernet, the name coming from the physical concept of the ether. He later founded 3COM to productize his baby, and computer networking hasn't been the same since.

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Bitmap Graphics, 1980s

A bitmap or pixmap is a type of memory organization or image file format used to store digital images. The term bitmap comes from the computer programming terminology, meaning a spatially mapped array of bits. Now, along with pixmap, it commonly refers to the similar concept of a spatially mapped array of pixels. Common uses are the standardized compressed bitmap files such as GIF, PNG, TIFF and JPEG.

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Cleantech, 2005

Cleantech has its beginnings at PARC. A major project to develop affordable solar energy began as a partnership with SolFocus. Pictured is Dr. Scott Elrod, who runs the cleantech innovation program for PARC.

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Clean Water Where There Was None, 2001

Hydrodynamic separators are storm water management devices used to control water pollution. They are designed as flow-through structures with a settling or separation unit to remove sediment and other pollutants. HDS are considered structural best management practices and are used to treat and pretreat storm water runoff.

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The New Internet, 2009

Content-centric networking (also content-based networking, data-oriented networking or named data networking) is an alternative approach to the architecture of computer networks, pioneered by Ted Nelson and recently promoted by Van Jacobson (pictured), the original author of TCP/IP header compression and now a research fellow at PARC. On Sept. 21, 2009, PARC published the specifications for interoperability and released an initial open-source implementation of the Content Centric Networking research project on the Project CCNx site. The next-generation Internet will be called the Named Data Network (NDN).

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Studying Head Trauma, 2010

PARC also conducts medical research. Currently it is running a technical program to develop and prototype disposable flexible blast dosimeter tapes to detect the occurrence of events that cause traumatic brain injury. The sensor tape requires sensors, signal conditioning electronics, non-volatile memory and a thin-film battery.

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PARC Superstars, 2007

Left to right: Tom Magnanti, Butler Lampson, Bob Sproull and Charles Simonyi. Simonyi, former chief architect at Microsoft, was leader of the team that invented the WYSIWYG text editor. Sproull, a pioneer in 3D virtual reality, worked on laser printing at PARC, where he also blazed trails in computer graphics. Lampson worked on Ethernet, WYSIWYG and laser printing. His famous 1972 memo, Why Alto? envisioned the personal computer. MIT dean of engineering Tom Magnanti stands in for Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe, who took this picture at a party at his residence.

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