How Xerox Invented (and Gave Away) the Information Age (2023)

Imagine Ford Motor Corp somewhere has a building full of engineers who built a flying car that can go 300 miles per hour, runs on water, and has a device that gently massages your groin as it flies. And Ford doesn't care. Imagine they just sit and think about the future of transportation while most companies figure out how to take advantage of another decade of gas cars. One day they take Toyota and GM and happily show off their flying prototype, because why not?

How Xerox Invented (and Gave Away) the Information Age (1)

"He is also able to mix a perfect Mimosa."

This happened.

Only instead of a flying car, the device was a personal computer. The company that unleashed the most world-changing invention since aviation was not IBM, Intel or Texas Instruments. Here's a hint: these are the people who probably made your copier at work.

How Xerox Invented (and Gave Away) the Information Age (2)

We think we speak for millions of office drones when we say, "Fuck those guys' necks."

If you get an Apple fan and a Windows loyalist in the same room, they'll end up embroiled in a heated debate over who really invented the PC and who was really responsible for every little innovation that made it the device for the future. most of us became. . I'd rather lose a testicle than live without it. In fact, they both stole the idea from the company that you probably associate with annoying paper jams, empty toner cartridges, and copy dongles for the office Christmas party.

It all started with a machine they assembled almost 40 years ago calledXerox alt.

How Xerox Invented (and Gave Away) the Information Age (3)

Portrait style? Thatfound it?

It was the birth of what we know today as a personal computer: it had a screen, a keyboard, a mouse and a graphical interface.The first time these four were on the same machine together.. Honestly, if the thing could have shown breasts in color, the evolution of the PC might have stopped there. and this happened1973. Nearly a decade before the first Mac hit the shelves.

How Xerox Invented (and Gave Away) the Information Age (4)

Much sexier.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

In short, everything you use to read this article and the devices that most of your life revolve around can be attributed to a building full of geniuses in Palo Alto, California. It was Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), founded four decades ago to figure out ways to make computers actually usable by the average human, instead of becoming huge, bulky machines that ran on diesel fuel.

Here's a short but overwhelming list of things.PAR invented:

1. Graphical user interfaces so you can finally see more than just letters on your computer screen;

2. Laser printers, to print things that weren't rough and rough;

3. Computer-generated bitmap images, which eventually led to video animation, the precursor to GIFs of skateboarders hitting their balls against the railing;

4. WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) text editors, which let you see what your text documents actually looked like when you wrote them. Before that, you literally couldn't see what you wrote until you printed it;

5. Object-oriented programming, which meant that functions could be added to a program without having to rewrite everything.

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It was the birth of a brave new era in masturbation.

Wait, there's more.

See, this all leads to what could be the granddaddy of the Xerox inventions, the one that made Cracked and other essential services possible:

The damn internet.

How Xerox Invented (and Gave Away) the Information Age (6)

This here.

If you know anything about the history of computers, you've probably heard that the modern Internet evolved from DARPAnet, a Department of Defense project experimenting with the ability to transfer files between computers. All of these computers on the DARPAnet were Xerox Alto workstations using Ethernet cables, one of several technologies invented by Xerox's PARC research division.

They had a similar network in the Xerox offices, which probably had much funnier images of cats, and they called it "Internet Work Routing," or "Internet" for short.

Yes, Xerox invented it all. So why doesn't Xerox own the entire planet, while benefiting from the combined fortunes of Microsoft, Apple, IBM and God knows how many other companies, in a world where everyone owns a desktop, a laptop and a Xerox xPad?

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Possibly no turtleneck?

In short, the heads of the Xerox company simplyI didn't careabout computers. According to Larry Tessler, a former PARC researcher, "company management on the East Coast of the United States did not act on the results of the PARC investigation unless they were directly involved with copy machines." The potential to effortlessly create new programs and share data with others in the office was clearly none other than the ability to simply replicate scraps of paper. We know hindsight is 20/20, but come on.

Instead of using their brilliant technology and making commercial computer related products (apart from the unfortunate $16,000 worth)copier star), vanjust opened the doorsfor anyone who wanted to see what he was doing and counted on itsomeoneIf Xerox didn't want to, it would have to benefit from the millions of dollars Xerox invested in research.

In 1979, some industry people were given a tour of the Xerox factory, which to a computer nerd must have looked like Willy enjoying Wonka's magical chocolate factory. One of them was a young man named Bill Gates, who correctly decided that Xerox was stupid for letting this happen and killed as many ideas as possible. Another was a man named Steve Jobs.

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Steve Jobs described the graphical user interface as "the best I've ever seen", and the next day brought in much of his senior staff and practically demanded that they show him the Supreme Court's technologies more closely. Well.. as demos for each of your programmers. Researcher Adele Goldberg tried to avoid this by saying that Xerox "gave away the sink". Apple responded withliterally instructing PARC to give its technology to Apple.

It is believed that many of the PARC scientists, after dealing with these idiots for so long, actually didwanted Apple to adopt this technology, only so that someone would finally give them some credit for what they did. Five years later, Apple released itfirst Macintosh computer, And the rest is history.

This raises the important question of the modern age: what on earth was Xerox thinking?

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Except "more cocaine, please."

American scientistdecided to askFormer PARC researcher David Biegelsen stepped into the matter, responding with a thoughtful "he's beating me up." Part of the problem was the difficulty of making a cheap PC, but he openly admitted that "Xerox was unable to realize and capitalize on the gold mine they were in." He was one of the smartest guys in computing at the time, and he doesn't even know what his biggest mistake was.

We may never know why Xerox so willingly scrapped the technology that has since revolutionized the entire planet; if they had taken the time to turn their technologies into successful products, or even learnhow to file a patent claim on timethey could be the biggest company in the world, with a rich son of a bitch owning the combined fortune of Bill Gates and a pre-iPod Steve Jobs, while also getting a share of every PC and networking device sold anywhere. And that's on top of the billions of dollars worth of copiers they sell each year.

How Xerox Invented (and Gave Away) the Information Age (10)

Copiers don't attract legions of creepy fans.

Hey, the PC thing is probably just a fad anyway.

Jim Avery is a regular contributor to


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