|Xerox Alto, with mouse and Rolodex, early seventies.|
Who came up with the first personal computer? The first graphic interface? The first computer mouse? The first ethernet network? Was it Steve Jobs? Bill Gates? A team of faceless Japanese engineers? No, it was formerly Rochester, NY based Xerox Corporation.
In the sixties and seventies Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Company (PARC) invented just about everything you can imagine. That includes what was recognized as the first true PC – The Xerox Alto… This sucker had everything, Ethernet networking, graphical user interface, icons, bit mapping, scalable type, a mouse, the world’s first laser printer, hot and cold running water, a back scratcher (OK, just kidding on the last two.)
So why didn't we ever see Altos in every business, school, house, tent and mud hut aound the globe, like the more successful "micro computers?" we've come to know and love? George Parker explains:
It was years ahead of its time. So what did Xerox management do with it? Not a god damn thing. They were too busy counting the money rolling in every time someone used a 914, ‘cos you couldn’t buy one, you had to lease it and pay for every copy you made. The thing was a gold mine for years until the patents finally ran out.
As everyone knows, the main beneficiary of all the incredible stuff coming out of PARC was Steve Jobs, ‘cos in its infinite wisdom, Xerox gave the King of Apple a conducted tour of PARC, showing him everything they were up to, even watching him as he made notes of everything he was shown. Within months he had hired away some of PARCS top talent and instituted a program that resulted in the Lisa, the forerunner of the Mac, which I worked on before most of you were born!The "914" was an early Xerox office copy machine, which generated so much revenue that Xerox saw no reason to exploit its later invention. Why, that sounds just like that another Rochester industrial giant, now bankrupt, which invented digital photography - Eastman Kodak.