Licklider, widely recognized for his pioneering work that established
the basis for computing concepts such as timesharing and resource
Licklider, who held advanced degrees in psychology, was among the
first to recognize that the fullest potential of the computer could
only be achieved by improving the human user's ability to interact
In turn, he saw that the computer could do more than just provide
data. It could also aid its users in thinking, understanding and decision
In the spring
of 1957, while he continued to carry out the duties of an MIT researcher
and professor, Dr. J.C.R. Licklider noted every task he did during
the day and kept track of each one. He didn't know it then, but that
unofficial experiment prepared the way for the invention of interactive
computing--the technology that bridged yesteryear's number crunchers
and tomorrow's mind amplifiers.
Licklider's research specialty was psychoacoustics. During World War
II, he had explored ways electronics could be applied to understanding
human communications. Specifically, he wanted to learn how the human
ear and brain are able to convert atmospheric vibrations into the
perception of distinct sounds. After the way, MIT was the center of
a number of different attempts to use electronic mechanisms to model
parts of the nervous system--a movement in biology and psychology
as well as engineering that was inspired by the work of Norbert Wiener
and others in the interdisciplinary field of cybernetics. Licklider
was one of the researchers attracted to this paradigm, not strictly
out of the desire to build a new kind of machine, but out of the need
for new ways to simulate the activities of the human brain. This need,
inspired by cybernetics, was extended simultaneously into engineering
and physiology. Computers were the last thing on Licklider's mind--until
his theoretical models of human perceptual mechanisms got out of hand.
outlined his vision for improving the human-computer dialogue--he
called it the "man-computer symbiosis"--in a number of papers
published in the early 1960s.
The first recorded
description of the social interactions that could be enabled through
networking was a series of memos written by J.C.R. Licklider of MIT
in August 1962 discussing his "Galactic Network" concept.
He envisioned a globally interconnected set of nodes through which
everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site. In
spirit, the concept was very much like the Internet of today. Licklider
was the first head of the computer research program at DARPA, starting
in October 1962. While at DARPA he convinced his successors at ARPA,
Ivan Sutherland, Bob Taylor, and MIT researcher Lawrence G. Roberts,
of the importance of this networking concept.
The program he
outlined for achieving this symbiosis was supported by the Advanced
Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the Department of Defense, which
established the first large-scale experimental computer science research
projects at universities across the nation, a group that became known
as "the ARPA community." Out of that effort came the basis
for timesharing, virtual memory and resource sharing.
The first of the
university computer science laboratories was Project MAC at MIT. Professor
Licklider was director of Project MAC (now the MIT Laboratory for
Computer Science) from 1968-70.
also made important contributions in the application of computers
to modern libaries, introducing the concepts of digital computers
and telecommunications into the processes of information
storage and retrieval. In the mid 1980s he developed a system of graphical
programming that made it possible to construct computer programs by
drawing diagrams on a computer screen instead of writing
numerical and symbolic expressions.
In March, Professor
Licklider was one of six world figures who shared the 1990 Common
Wealth Awards of Distinguished Service. He received the award, which
recognized his work in computer networking and computer-human interaction,
in the science and invention category. Professor Licklider was nominated
for the honor by Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society.
He is survived
by his wife, Louise Carpenter Licklider. Also surviving are his children,
Tracy Robnett Licklider of Cambridge and Linda Licklider Smith of
Arlington; his grandchildren, Allison R. Smith and
Zachary Licklider; his daughter-in-law, Janann (Garrity) Licklider,
and his son-in-law, Dr. Lorne A. Smith.
Professor Licklider held the BA from Washington University, majored
in physics, mathematics and psychology.
Master's degree in psychology from Washington University.
Receives his PhD in psychology from the University of Rochester. Thesis
"An Electrical Investigation of Frequency-Localization in the
Auditory Cortex of the Cat."
WWII Research Associate at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA
Studied Gestalt psychology with Wolfgang Koeller
Research Fellow in the Psycho-Acoustics Laboratory, Harvard University,
Cambridge, MA, advancing "theories of pitch perception and the
intelligibility of speech" (NYT 7/3/90) "Interested in high-altitude
communication, particularly in ways of compressing speech to increase
the carrying power of radio and stuff like that." (Annals, 14,
2, p. 16.) Fano said, "There was some very substantial work that
he did during the war .... He did something called "clipped speech"--
he invented [it]: it worked very well." (Annals) Numerous scientific
papers published e.g., Jour. Acous. Soc. Am.
Researcher at Harvard University's Psycho-Acoustics Laboratory and
a lecturer at Harvard University, where he
advanced theories of pitch perception and the intelligibility of speech.
Lecturer at Harvard "mainly doing research, but also a little
bit of teaching ... statistics and physiological
psychology ... subjects like that" (Babbage interview) "At
that time Norbert Wiener ran a circle that was very
attractive to people all over Cambridge, and on Tuesday nights I went
to that." (Annals, Vol 14 no 2 p.16)
Participated in Project Hartwell (Navy supported research concerning
underseas warfare and overseas transport)
Participant in Project Charles (Air Force study of air defense). "At
that time, some of the more impressionable ones of us were expecting
there would be 50,000 Soviet bombers coming in over here." (Annals)
Lead to the creation of Lincoln Laboratories. "I was trying to
model how the brain works in hearing with an analog computer ....
My time was divided a third time acoustics lab, a third time trying
to build a psychology section ..., and one third in the Lincoln Laboratory...
really had to learn digital computing, because I couldn't do this
stuff with analog computers" (Annals)
Went as Associate Professor to Massachusetts Institute of Technology
to "start up a psychology section which we hoped would eventually
become a Psychology Department ... in the Electrical Engineering Department
... taught a little bit of electrical engineering."
Joins Bolt Beranek and Newman, Inc., as vice president and
as head of the departments of psychoacoustics, engineering psychology
and information systems research.
Elected president of the Acoustical Society of America.
Did research and management work at BBN using DEC PDP-I Worked under
Council on library Resources grant (1991-3) "I was having such
a marvelous time at BBN, working on computer based library stuff and
all kinds of aural radar." (Annals) Did "a little study
... on how I would spend my time. It showed that almost all my time
was spent on algorithmic things that were no fun, but they were all
necessary for the few heuristic things that seemed important. I had
this little picture in my mind how we were going to get people and
computers really thinking together." (Annals)
Named director for Information Processing Techniques and for Behavioral
Sciences with ARPA in Washington, D.C.
Directed ARPA information processing technology and behavioral sciences
section (IPTO 1963-4). Encouraged research into time-sharing at MIT,
SDC, Berkeley, UCLA, etc and distributed enough money to incubate
the formation of computer science departments that eventually would
be linked up via the ARPNET. (Funding for Project MAC started in 1963.)
Fano said, Licklider was "very different from most heads of branches
of the government, .... not sitting in your office waiting for proposals
to arrive after sending out a brochure ... running around the country
trying to generate enthusiasm." (Annals)
Manager of Information Sciences, Systems and Applications at the Thomas
J. Watson Center of International Business Machines. Lived near Mt.
Participant in EduCom Summer Study on Information Networks at Boulder
Colorado planning EduNet.
Rreturned to MIT as director of Project MAC and as a professor in
of Electrical Engineering
He directs the Information Processing Techniques Office ( IPTO) in
Professor at MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS)
Professor Licklider becoms emeritus professor at MIT (1988 had 8MB
RAM 150MB HD computer on his desk.)
Franklin V. Taylor Award, Society of Engineering Psychologists
1990 Common Wealth
Awards of Distinguished Service.
National Academy of Sciences, Acoustic Society of America, Academy
of Arts and Sciences, Association for Computing Machinery