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Xerox Alto Designer, Co-Inventor Of Ethernet, Dies at 74

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica:
Charles Thacker, one of the lead hardware designers on the Xerox Alto, the first modern personal computer, died of a brief illness on Monday. He was 74. The Alto, which was released in 1973 but was never a commercial success, was an incredibly influential machine… Thomas Haigh, a computer historian and professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, wrote in an email to Ars, “Alto is the direct ancestor of today’s personal computers. It provided the model: GUI, windows, high-resolution screen, Ethernet, mouse, etc. that the computer industry spent the next 15 years catching up to. Of course others like Alan Kay and Butler Lampson spent years evolving the software side of the platform, but without Thacker’s creation of what was, by the standards of the early 1970s, an amazingly powerful personal hardware platform, none of that other work would have been possible.”

In 1999 Thacker also designed the hardware for Microsoft’s Tablet PC, “which was first conceived of by his PARC colleague Alan Kay during the early 1970s,” according to the article. “I’ve found over my career that it’s been very difficult to predict the future,” Thacker said in a guest lecture in 2013. “People who tried to do it generally wind up being wrong.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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