Innovation enablerJack Goldman

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A physicist, Goldman was the chief scientist for Xerox Corp., the copier giant. The company wanted a new research arm, and put him in charge of building it. The result, in 1970, was California’s Palo Alto Research Center, or Xerox PARC for short, purposely located 3,000 miles from Xerox headquarters. “There was this whole concept of the paperless office that was sort of in the air at the time,” says Michael Hiltzik, author of the 1999 book Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC in the Dawn of the Computer Age. “Since Xerox earned a commission from every piece of paper that went through its leased copiers, Goldman understood that technologies that did not rely on paper posed a threat to the bottom line.”

So Goldman staffed PARC with top scientists to create new technologies, and they quickly churned out results: they invented the first modern personal computer (complete with a new idea called a graphical user interface, which the user would manipulate with something developed with the Stanford Research Institute called a “mouse”. They invented the laser printer, and they networked their new “personal” computers with something else they invented: Ethernet. That’s still not all: they developed InterPress, a resolution-independent graphical page-description language, which was the precursor to PostScript, and object-oriented programming (with SmallTalk). And they showed their work off, including most famously to a visitor named Steve Jobs, who adapted many of PARC’s ideas in the development of the Apple Macintosh computer. Goldman didn’t invent it all himself: he “just” created the environment that enabled great scientists to work without management — not even himself — looking over their shoulders. Jacob “Jack” Goldman died December 20 in Connecticut, at 90.

From This is True for 25 December 2011