A tour around "first church of technology" PARC (the innovative lab that started a ton in tech)

The room where the first Ethernet cable is in

You might know PARC. This is the lab that Steve Jobs walked into and was inspired to make the Mac what it is today. Inside this lab lots of things in the industry were developed:

1. Laser printers and page description language.
2. Tablet PCs (the first prototype is sitting in a display there).
3. Ethernet (first piece of ethernet is still in the wall here, and is seen in one of the interviews below).
4. Object oriented programming.
5. The modern personal computer with graphical user interface.
6. Very-large-scale-integration for semiconductors.

Among other things, which are detailed on Wikipedia.

So, when PARC says “come on over for a tour” you drop everything and go.

While there I met with several people to get a taste of what they are working on now. Visiting here is like visiting Jerusalem (home of the first church). It’s where everything seemed to start and is still filled with brilliant people. For instance, in part IV of my tour you’ll meet Richard Chow. Some of his achievements include architecting Yahoo!’s click-fraud protection system and delivering the Security and DRM components for Motorola’s first Java-based phone platform.

PART ONE: Future of Networking. See the first Ethernet cable in the wall, and learn about Content Centric Networking. Here, Teresa Lunt, Vice President and Director of the Computing Science Laboratory research organization, and Nacho Solis, researcher, tell me how networks are changing.

Anyway, let’s get started.

PART TWO: How Ethnographic research leads to new business ideas. Here we meet Victoria Bellotti who manages PARC’s Socio-Technical and Interaction Research team at PARC where she also developed PARC’s Opportunity Discovery research targeting methods and program. Victoria studies people to understand their practices, problems, and requirements for future technology, and also designs and analyzes human-centered systems — focusing on user experience.

PART THREE: Ubiquitous Computing research (and some historic networking equipment). Kurt Partridge is a researcher in PARC’s ubiquitous computing area. His research interests include context awareness, activity modeling, location modeling, wearable computing, and using users’ natural behaviors to simplify human-computer interaction. He received a Ph. D. in Computer Science from the University of Washington in 2005. Here we talk about what happens when computers are everywhere, which enables the Internet of Things.

PART FOUR: Keeping our Cloud Computing Safe. Richard Chow is interested in systems security, fraud detection, and privacy. Some of his achievements include architecting Yahoo!’s click-fraud protection system and delivering the Security and DRM components for Motorola’s first Java-based phone platform.

Here Richard talks to me about what he’s working on and how he’s developing new techniques to keep our data private and secure. Interesting conversation!

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this little tour around PARC.

By the way, recently Malcolm Gladwell wrote about PARC’s role in computing’s development. He got several things wrong, PARC’s managers say, and they wrote a rebuttal on their blog about how the lab innovates and why it plays a key role in Silicon Valley even today.

Published by

Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's startup program. He's interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books ("The Age of Context," a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext ), YouTube, and many social media sites where he's followed by millions of people. Best place to watch me is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble


  1. When at the Xerox Parc Alan Kay invented the mouse, the GUI, Smalltalk and object-orientation. He once said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it!” ” 

    1. Alan Kay also created the “dynabook” (precursor to iPad) for use by kids in learning and by the military to replace manuals. (The iPad is just starting to be used on the flight deck at Delta Airlines.)  Maybe this is why Steve & Company never do research with people and what they want, they just develop it, and then iterate on it to optimize the customer’s takeup.

  2.  watching the first video.. man.. way over my head. these people think at a completely different level from the rest of the world by the sounds of it. I’m guessing even you had some trouble following the concept the whole way through?

    1. Yup, especially on the networking one, although I started to get it eventually and it is, indeed, pretty mindblowing if you think about it. Pretty interesting stuff!

  3.  I get it, I get it. I need to speak more slowly. :-)

    The shift in networking is definitely a paradigm shift.   It’s not going to be an overnight shift though, so people will have time to wrap their minds around the new way of thinking.  You can always find more information at http://www.ccnx.org/ and at http://www.named-data.net/