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The next time you use a computer, remember Jacob Goldman, RIP

The House that Jacob Goldman built. The innovator died on Tuesday, at age 90.
The House that Jacob Goldman built. The innovator died on Tuesday, at age 90.
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How would we ever get anything done without the contributions of Jacob Goldman, founder of Xerox PARC, who died yesterday at age 90? This is from the New York Times' obituary:

Established in 1970 in an industrial park next to Stanford, PARC researchers designed a remarkable array of computer technologies, including the Alto personal computer, the Ethernet office network, laser printing and the graphical user interface.

The technologies would later be commercialized by both Apple Computer and Microsoft, among others, and Xerox would be criticized for not capitalizing enough on the technologies it had pioneered...

So Xerox didn't bring us the personal computing revolution. But at least the right people were around to capitalize on the research. If there's a lesson in Goldman's life, it's that research matters. And it really matters when it's funded by big companies, even if they don't wind up knowing what to do with the innovation that it enables.

Obviously, tech companies that have benefitted from Goldman and his colleagues' work know this. In fact, it seems to be wound into the DNA of the likes of Google, which is constantly trying to innovate for its own sake. You don't make billions to spend it. You make billions to make it possible to make billions more.

We've lost another great California business person this year, after Steve Jobs' death in October. (Although Goldman was born in Brooklyn and died in Connecticut.) How fascinating that Goldman and Jobs were linked: It was at Xerox PARC that Jobs first saw the interface that would make the original Macintosh — and all subsequent Apple products — so vitally different.

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