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Xerox Alto Designer, Co-Inventor Of Ethernet, Dies at 74 (arstechnica.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Charles Thacker, one of the lead hardware designers on the Xerox Alto, the first modern personal computer, died of a brief illness on Monday. He was 74. The Alto, which was released in 1973 but was never a commercial success, was an incredibly influential machine... Thomas Haigh, a computer historian and professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, wrote in an email to Ars, "Alto is the direct ancestor of today's personal computers. It provided the model: GUI, windows, high-resolution screen, Ethernet, mouse, etc. that the computer industry spent the next 15 years catching up to. Of course others like Alan Kay and Butler Lampson spent years evolving the software side of the platform, but without Thacker's creation of what was, by the standards of the early 1970s, an amazingly powerful personal hardware platform, none of that other work would have been possible."
In 1999 Thacker also designed the hardware for Microsoft's Tablet PC, "which was first conceived of by his PARC colleague Alan Kay during the early 1970s," according to the article. "I've found over my career that it's been very difficult to predict the future," Thacker said in a guest lecture in 2013. "People who tried to do it generally wind up being wrong."
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Xerox Alto Designer, Co-Inventor Of Ethernet, Dies at 74

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  • by 50000BTU_barbecue ( 588132 ) on Saturday June 17, 2017 @02:01PM (#54639445) Journal

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    I quite enjoy this.

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Saturday June 17, 2017 @02:21PM (#54639475) Homepage Journal
    We graduated college together. Always a nice guy.
  • "I've found over my career that it's been very difficult to predict the future," Thacker said in a guest lecture in 2013. "People who tried to do it generally wind up being wrong."

    Oh, come now. Predicting the future is easy. The future will be just like the present but different. See, easy-peasy.

  • by woboyle ( 1044168 ) on Saturday June 17, 2017 @03:13PM (#54639641)
    The co-inventor of ethernet at PARC, Robert Metcalf, has been a friend of mine for 35 years. My sympathies to Thacker's family for their loss. I never knew him although I may have met him in the early 1980's in the Silicon Valley. As a commercial computer sales rep in the Valley back then I sold Robert the first 100 IBM PC's for his startup, 3-com. When I was an engineer in Boston in the late 1980's and early 1990's we would meet for dinner before IEEE meetings.
  • Did they have to say "co-inventor" because of that Al Gore thing?
  • Ethernet was based on AlohaNet developed at the University of Hawaii. It was built to provide network communications to data centers across the islands. They used shortwave radios to send packets across the ether to each other. When I was an undergrad we actually studied AlohaNet in my OS class.

    Maybe he refined it but he didn't invent it.

  • "It provided the model... that the computer industry spent the next 15 years catching up to."

    And Xerox didn't sell it for those intervening 15 years because....?

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      And Xerox didn't sell it for those intervening 15 years because....?

      Because it wasn't a copier and management was too risk averse to go into the business of selling computers.
      It's really annoying that tiny (at the time obviously) startups like Apple and Microsoft did more with what would have been less than Xerox's coffee budget than Xerox did.

  • Could we edit the title to at least include his name - credit where it is due.

  • Based on the summary, I initially thought this guys name was Xerox Alta.

    I thought to myself, "that's such a badass name."

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