Imagine a company bigger than Microsoft, more profitable than Apple, more innovative than Intel and Google combined. The name of such a company. Well there isn’t one. But Xerox could have been that company, 40 years ago. The Palo Alto Research Center was a part of Xerox, and their contributions to the computer industry are legend. Think of the Ethernet, the mouse, the Graphical User Interface, and email. These are just some of the innovations that came out of that center. Even Steve Jobs went there took the GUI and well…the rest is history.
This week PARC is celebrating its 40 Birthday and several luminaries were there. Bob Metcalf, the inventor of Ethernet reflected on his time there, and as the founder of 3COM.
Another figure the was prominent at PARC and the most mentioned was John Seely Brown, or JSB, as he’s known throughout the world of technology. He was the chief scientist at Xerox and the director of PARC. Brown was a major figure in the institution’s history since almost every story seemed to include him.
Eight years ago, PARC spinned off from Xerox and serves as a research hub for other companies. It is still very much in the middle of the future of technology. PARC is deep into clean tech, biomedical engineering, and natural language processing. It counts Microsoft, Dai Nippon Printing, Sun/Oracle, Samsung, NEC, and Fujitsu among its clients. Many of its other high-profile clients prefer to keep their relationship with PARC secret so as not to tip of competitors.
What made PARC such a success was the non-bottom line oriented approach that it took to research. Researchers were there to solve problems, not to produce products that would be profitable. When you think of it, how odd, that theoretical research was the golden goose and it laid many golden eggs.