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J.C.R. Licklider

Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider (March 11, 1915 - June 26, 1990), known simply as J.C.R., was one of the most important figures in computer science and general computing history. He is probably best known as the father of artificial intelligence but was also an important figure in conceptualizing modern computer interaction concepts and the development of time-sharing and the modern Internet. Licklider was also a colleague of Douglas Engelbart, who was head of the Stanford Research Institute and its highly influential OnLine System.

In 1950, Licklider moved from Harvard University to MIT where he got his first credible computing experiences. He worked on a Cold War project known as SAGE designed to create computer-based air defense systems. In 1960, Licklider wrote his famous paper Man-Computer Symbiosis, which outlined the need for simpler interaction between computers and computer users. Licklider, although credited as the creator of AI and cybernetics, wasn't actually thinking that men would be replaced by computer-based beings.

The earliest ideas of a global computer network were formulated by Licklider at MIT in August 1962 in a series of memos discussing the "Galactic Network" concept. These ideas contained almost everything that the Internet is today. In October 1962 Licklider was appointed head of the DARPA information processing office, part the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He would then convince Ivan Sutherland, Bob Taylor, and Lawrence G. Roberts that this was a very important concept.

In 1968, J.C.R. Licklider became director of Project MAC at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which he had provided the initial funding for while at DARPA. Project MAC produced both the first computer time-sharing system, CTSS, and one of the first online setups with the development of Multics in 1965. Just as important, Multics was the direct ancestor of the Unix operating system developed at Bell Labs by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie in 1970. So many of Licklider's visions are still with us today that the effect of his ideas can scarcely be quantified, especially with the explosion of the World Wide Web and the general Internet.