The computer revolution can almost entirely be placed at the feet of one company. What’s that you say? Microsoft? No, though that’s a good guess. It’s actually Xerox Corp.
In 1970, Xerox, anticipating a paperless office, opened the Palo Alto Research Center or PARC. PARC was not a research and development center. Instead, its purpose was to do basic research that would arm the copier company with the technology to stay at the cutting edge of office products. PARC gathered the best minds in computer science and set to work. Researchers churned out a perfected GUI (graphical user interface), a perfected mouse, Ethernet, the laser printer, the world’s first computer workstation and other products — all in the early 1970s.
Because Xerox was making too much money off its copier business at the time to transform itself into a computer company, it didn’t develop a single PARC technology. PARC researchers began decamping from the facility to create their own companies and Silicon Valley was born.
Now, after 30 years, Xerox is talking to venture capitalists about selling PARC, according to a report in The New York Times Thursday. The company, once the bluest of blue chips, has been fending off bankruptcy rumors and struggling to raise cash. Investors have been bailing out of the company — its stock hit a 10-year low of $6.75 per share Wednesday — and competitors have grabbed large chunks of its market share. The Times reported that even Xerox’s copier and printer businesses may go up on the block.
According to the Times report, Xerox held an initial meeting concerning PARC with venture capital firm Accel Partners last week. While Accel executives have not commented on the negotiations, The Times said another venture capitalist firm that has talked with Xerox said the Accel talks were serious but preliminary.