J.C.R. Licklider,also known as “Lick” was an American Psychologist and computer scientist. He has been called the “Johnny Appleseed” of computing for having planted seeds of computing in the digital age. Lick was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1915 where he attended Washington University for his Bachelors Degree in Physics, Mathematics and Psychology as well as a Master’s Degree in Psychology. He later attended Rochester University where he earned his PhD in Psychoacoustics. Psychoacoustics is the study of sound perception, or more specifically it is the study of the psychological and physiological responses associated syncforlazy with sound.
In 1950, Lick went to work at MIT in which he received his first real experience working in computing. He worked with the Air Force in designing air defense systems against soviet bombers during the Cold War. A few years later, in 1957, he went to work at Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), and architectural acoustics design firm. Knowing of their great potential but unsure of the uses, Lick persuaded the company to buy a $25,000 computer. Understanding their uses, the company bought a Digital Equipment PDP-1 for $150,000 and Lick began hiring young computer engineers, which shifted the company’s focus towards computer consulting.
In 1962, Lick headed the Behavioral Sciences and Command and Control departments at ARPA. His main task to find alternative uses for computers other than numerical calculations. Lick received contracts from places like UCLA, Stanford and Berkeley working for ARPA. Jokingly he called the grou the Intergalactic Computer Network. Later this network became the ARPANET, precursor to the internet. He began to envision communication between computers. Although the long physical distance between the computers made it difficult, “It will possibly turn out that only an rare occasions do most or all of the computers in the overall system operate together in an integrated network. It seems to me important, nevertheless, to develop a capability for integrated network operation” (Licklider in Hafner and Lyon). He later stated, “If such a network as I envisage nebulously could be brought into operation, we could have at least four large computers, perhaps six or eight small computers, and a great assortment of disc files and magnetic tape units-not to mention remote consoles and teletype stations-all churning away” (Licklider in Waldrop). Although Lick left ARPA in 1963, his vision lead others to develop ARPANET, the world’s first operational packet-switching networks. Decades later, his ideas at ARPA also created JAVA.
In 1960 Lick began developing his greatest vision, Man-Computer Symbiosis.The main goal of this idea was, “to enable men and computers to cooperate in making decisions and controlling complex situations without inflexible dependence on predetermined programs” (Licklider). He intended for man to come up with the idea and the computer to execute the idea or plan. “Men will set the goals, formulate the hypothesis, determine the criteria and perform the evaluations. Computing machines will do the routinizable work that must be done to prepare the way for insights and decisions in technical and scientific thinking” (Licklider, Man-Computing Symbiosis). As other developers of cybernetics believed computers would take over humans, Lick did not follow that belief. He believed man and computers would work together to create and easier and more efficient world for man. He called it symbiosis because of its definition: “The living together in more or less intimate association or close union of two dissimilar organisms” (Webster’s Dictionary). In his article on Man-Computer Symbiosis, he states six factors or prerequisites that must be considered in the development and success of this symbiosis: Separable Functions, Mismatched Speeds, Memory Hardware, Memory Organization, Language Problem and Input and Output Equipment.
Because of Lick’s visions, work and dedication tot his profession and understanding of a much larger use for computers, the world today has the Internet, JAVA and millions of other programs, apps and uses to make humans living arrangements more efficient and enjoyable. I have attached an audio recording of Phil Barrett, vice president of Technology at Realworks. This is his views for the future of computing.
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