J.C.R. Licklider

licklider3Born in 1915 in St.Louis, Missouri, J.C.R. Licklider (Lick) studied physics, chemistry, fine arts, and psychology, eventually earning undergraduate degrees and a Ph.D. He was a professor at Harvard University in the 40s, before moving on to MIT. There he was in charge of a human engineering group at Lincoln Lab, MIT’s air defense laboratory, where he worked extensively with computers. He believed that technology had the power to save humanity, and in 1960 published “Man-Computer Symbiosis”, which put forth the idea that computers would eventually help humans make decisions. It was an unorthodox view to say that computers would become more than just calculating tools, but he believed they would augment the human intellect.

He eventually accepted a position as head of ARPA’s Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO). Licklider formed alliances with the most advanced academic computer centers across the country, which he calls the Intergalactic Computer Network. During his two year tenure, he made important contributions to computer science. He wrote a memo, “To Members and Affiliates of the Intergalactic Computer Network”, in which he put forth the idea of an interactive network linking people via computer. He was responsible for planting the seeds of the World Wide Web and saw it’s birth before his death in 1990.

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