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The Comeback of Xerox PARC

Parc Hand X616

The Comeback of Xerox PARC  @ Technology Review.

Last month, a small Norwegian company called Thinfilm Electronics and PARC, the storied Silicon Valley research lab, jointly showed off a technological first—a plastic film that combined both printed transistors and printed digital memory.

Such flexible electronics could be an important component of future products, such as food packaging that senses and record temperatures, shock-sensing helmets, as well as smart toys. But the story of how PARC’s technology—the printed transistors—wound up paired with memory technology from an obscure Norwegian company also provides a window onto a 10-year struggle by Xerox to transform the way it commercializes R&D ideas.

For most of its 40-year history, PARC (for Palo Alto Research Center) was as famous for squandering new technologies as it was for inventing them. The mouse, the graphical user interface, and the drop-down menu were all born at PARC—but it was Apple and Microsoft that commercialized them and made them cornerstone inventions of the PC industry.


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1 Comment

  1. Actually Douglas C. Engelbart invented the computer mouse in 1964 and patented it in 1970(Patent # 3,541,541). The original was in the form of a wooden box with two metal wheels to track the X & Y motion. Here is one link of over 40K returned on Douglas Engelbart from Google that discusses his work – http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa081898.htm. There are a number of excellent books about PARC with some discussion of Engelbart’s work with PARC and the Internet as well. Check out these two excellent books on the subject: Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age by Michael A. Hiltzik and Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, then Ignored, the First Personal Computer by Douglas K. Smith and Robert C. Alexander.

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