Robert Taylor died last month at his home in Woodside, California, last month at age 85 due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease.
Taylor’s impact dates back to 1961, when, as a young project manager at NASA, he decided to direct funding towards a project that spawned the computer mouse. Five years later, he convinced his supervisor at what is now DARPA to invest $500,000 of taxpayer dollars to build Arpanet, or the precursor to the modern internet.
While at Xerox PARC in the 1970s and early 1980s, Taylor led a lab team that developed or perfected several innovations associated with modern computing, including icons, pop-up menus, overlapping windows and bitmap displays.
Towards the end of his career, Taylor created and ran the Digital Equipment Systems Research Laboratory in Palo Alto, California, which helped create AltaVista, one of the early modern search engines.
In an obituary published by Wired, Leslie Berlin referenced the last email Taylor sent out, which reveled in the “ringside seat” he held as his teams dreamed up new ways to push the boundaries of technology.
“You did what they said could not be done, you created things that they could not see or imagine.” – Robert Taylor