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Robert Taylor, Innovator Who Shaped Modern Computing, Dies at 85

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Robert W. Taylor at the Palo Alto Research Center.

Robert W. Taylor had the idea that led to the Arpanet, the forerunner of the Internet.

Credit: Palo Alto Research Center

Like many inventions, the Internet was the work of countless hands. But perhaps no one deserves more credit for that world-changing technological leap than Robert W. Taylor, who died on Thursday at 85 at his home in Woodside, CA.

Indeed, few people were as instrumental in shaping the modern computer-connected world as he.

His seminal moment came in 1966. He had just taken a new position at the Pentagon—director of the Information Processing Techniques Office, part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as ARPA—and on his first day on the job it became immediately obvious to him what the office lacked and what it needed.

At the time, ARPA was funding three separate computer research projects and using three separate computer terminals to communicate with them. Mr. Taylor decided that the department needed a single computer network to connect each project with the others.

"I went to see Charlie Herzfeld, who was the head of ARPA, and laid the idea on him," Mr. Taylor recalled in an interview with The Times. "He liked the idea immediately, and he took a million dollars out of the ballistic missile defense budget and put it into my budget right then and there." He added, "The first funding came that month."


From The New York Times
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