Parc life: how Parc Xerox changed the world – 3

The need for reinvention
In his lab a few doors along the corridor from his office, Biegelsen proudly shows a piece of paper being steadily rotated by jets of air, held between two green printed circuit boards, while the paper’s movement is monitored on a PC. This is one of Parc’s big current projects – to reinvent the printer, like it did in 1971. Continue reading “Parc life: how Parc Xerox changed the world – 3”

Parc life: how Parc Xerox changed the world – 2

Parc life

This is an edited and extended version of an article first published in Computing, 11 May 2000

Palo Alto Research Centre, Parc, opened in July 1970 on a bucolic hill overlooking Silicon Valley, before it was called Silicon Valley. The valley, once dominated by agriculture but now crowded with the suburban sprawl that makes up the world’s greatest cluster of IT businesses, was injected with silicon by Parc’s Ears project: Ethernet, Alto, Research character generator and Scanning laser output terminal. The four components of Ears created a network, a computer for one person, a memory buffer for a printer and a laser printer, all invented nearly from scratch. Together, they set the template for the billions of personal computers produced since. Continue reading “Parc life: how Parc Xerox changed the world – 2”

Parc life: how Parc Xerox changed the world

Introduction (2013)

In the dot com era of the late 1990s and very early 2000s, IT companies ran lavish press trips. Most generated pretty awful journalism, partly because the companies wanted to get something out of organising the trip, partly because journalists treated such trips as paid holidays.

Peter Kirwan, my editor at Computing, sent me on my first press trip asking “how would you like to go to the Atlas mountains?” Another journalist at the paper, now a senior editor at a national newspaper, described IT journalists as having “working class pay, middle class attitudes and upper class lifestyles”. The main problem I found on such trips – apart from getting some sort of usable copy out of them – was how to order something from the expensive hotel room service that I could get past the editor when claiming expenses. I ate a lot of club sandwiches. Continue reading “Parc life: how Parc Xerox changed the world”

Oracle: as happy as Larry (Ellison)?

First published in Computing, 18 November 1999

Oracle is a success. It is the world’s second-largest software company. It is number one in relational databases, at least joint second in enterprise resource planning. It is making a strong showing in customer relationship management software – this year’s love for IT managers and stock-market analysts alike – and is poised to move into another hot area, enterprise application integration.

Yet this is a firm with a problem. Its chief executive has a predilection for announcing bold new ideas and products in a blaze of press coverage. These concepts usually see the light of day – but they are not always recognisable by the time they do. Continue reading “Oracle: as happy as Larry (Ellison)?”