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Internet Visionary and Texas Alum Bob Taylor to Speak at The University of Texas at Austin

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posted: Thursday September 3, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — Bob Taylor, considered by many to be the father of the Internet, will mark the 40th anniversary of its invention during a public conversation at The University of Texas at Austin on Sept. 17 with John Markoff, technology reporter for The New York Times.

Taylor, who received his master's degree in psychology from the university in 1964, was the first project manager and person most responsible for the creation of the first national network, the ARPAnet, which is universally regarded as the precursor to today's Internet. His vision created a computing and communications revolution.

In 1968, Taylor co-wrote the paper "Computers as a Communication Device," with J.C.R. Licklider, in which they predicted many of the uses of personal computers and social networking. There is a continuum between this paper and today's use of personal computers and the Internet. The paper is considered one of the most influential intellectual breakthroughs of the 20th century.

Taylor's appearance at the university celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Graduate School. Taylor is the inaugural speaker in the Graduate School's 1910 Lecture Series and is co-sponsored by the Dell Distinguished Lecture Series and the Department of Computer Science.

"We say that 'What Starts Here Changes the World,'" says Victoria Rodríguez, vice provost and dean of graduate studies. "Bob Taylor is an exceptional example of a graduate alumnus who has literally changed the world. Having him come back to the university to share his history and his thoughts about the future is the perfect kick-off to our celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Graduate School."

The event is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sept. 17 in the LBJ Auditorium and will feature an in-person interview of Taylor by Markoff. Also included will be presentations by Michael A. Hiltzik, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of "Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age," and M. Mitchell Waldrop, author of "The Dream Machine," a book about the history of computing.

J Strother Moore, professor in the Department of Computer Science, and Gary Chapman, senior lecturer in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and associate director of the UT Telecommunications and Information Policy Institute, will be masters of ceremony for the event.

"I worked for Bob Taylor in the early 1970s at Xerox PARC [Palo Alto Research Center], which was like a dream job," says Moore. "The atmosphere was freewheeling and creative, seemingly unconstrained but actually designed to do one thing: make personal computing practical and empowering. Taylor was uncanny in his ability to assemble a team of talented people and then keep them amplifying each other."

Chapman also began his association with Taylor in the 1970s at Xerox PARC. Taylor's work led to the most influential technological advancements in modern history, Chapman says, and Taylor worked with policymakers to be sure they understood the impact these technologies would have on a vast range of public policy issues.

"I was hired by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility in 1984, the first non-profit interest organization to grow because of the Internet," says Chapman. "It was a product of some of Taylor's best researchers that needed an organization that addressed the impact of computers on society. We addressed a number of public policy issues that were emerging, including international security and privacy, civil liberties and international relations. We were trying to educate policymakers about these technologies. Many people did not understand these technologies, nor could they grasp the impact they were likely to have on society, which as we now know has been the most profound of any in our lifetime."

For more information about the event, contact Kathleen Mabley at 512-232-3633.

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