Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider (; March 11, 1915 – June 26, 1990), known simply as J.
or "Lick", was an American psychologist and computer scientist who is considered one of the most important figures in computer science and general computing history.
He is particularly remembered for being one of the first to foresee modern-style interactive computing and its application to all manner of activities; and also as an Internet pioneer with an early vision of a worldwide computer network long before it was built.
He did much to initiate this by funding research which led to much of it, including today's canonical graphical user interface, and the ARPANET, the direct predecessor to the Internet.
He has been called "computing's Johnny Appleseed", for planting the seeds of computing in the digital age; Robert Taylor, founder of Xerox PARC's Computer Science Laboratory and Digital Equipment Corporation's Systems Research Center, noted that "most of the significant advances in computer technology—including the work that my group did at Xerox PARC—were simply extrapolations of Lick's vision.
They were not really new visions of their own.
So he was really the father of it all".This quotation from the full-length biography of him, The Dream Machine, gives some sense of his impact:
"More than a decade will pass before personal computers emerge from the garages of Silicon Valley, and a full thirty years before the Internet explosion of the 1990s.
The word computer still has an ominous tone, conjuring up the image of a huge, intimidating device hidden away in an over-lit, air-conditioned basement, relentlessly processing punch cards for some large institution: them."Yet, sitting in a nondescript office in McNamara's Pentagon, a quiet...civilian is already planning the revolution that will change forever the way computers are perceived.
Somehow, the occupant of that office...has seen a future in which computers will empower individuals, instead of forcing them into rigid conformity.
He is almost alone in his conviction that computers can become not just super-fast calculating machines, but joyful machines: tools that will serve as new media of expression, inspirations to creativity, and gateways to a vast world of online information."