d i g i t a l SRC Research Report 61

In Memoriam: J.C.R. Licklider 1915-1990

August 7, 1990

In the 1960s, J.C.R. Licklider published his ideas about the future role of multiaccess interactive computing. He looked beyond the existing limitations of punched cards and paper tape to a time when computers would interact in real time with the human user. By performing numerous routine tasks on demand, computers could contribute to a person's ability to formulate new insights and decisions. He saw man-computer interaction as enhancing both the quality and efficiency of human problem solving.

Articulating his vision was an important contribution in challenging people to examine the implications of an emerging technology. But through his work for the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), he was also able to give his vision reality. The projects sponsored by his program provided the research direction for computer science in this country for many subsequent years. Furthermore, his program was the first to provide the significant public funding necessary to guarantee the financial stability on which long-term research depended.

Perhaps his most important influence, however, was in the area of computer science education. Prior to his work at ARPA, there were no departments in US universities offering a PhD in computer science. His program sponsored research at four of the first universities to offer graduate computer science degrees. These departments in turn provided role models for other departments that followed.

J.C.R. Licklider thus played a central role in initiating and sustaining computer science research and education in this country. To commemorate his important contributions, we reprint here two of his papers, "Man-Computer Symbiosis" and "The Computer as a Communication Device." In recognition of the debt owed to him by the whole computer science profession, and by every user of interactive computing, we dedicate this report in his memory.

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