updated 2/24/2004 3:56:33 PM ET 2004-02-24T20:56:33

A team of former Xerox Corp. engineers received a national engineering prize Tuesday for work in creating the first personal computers in the early 1970s.

The National Academy of Engineering awarded the $500,000 Charles Stark Draper prize to Alan C. Kay, Butler W. Lampson, Robert W. Taylor and Charles P. Thacker for designing a "technical achievement that has changed almost every aspect of our lives."

The four engineers worked for Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center in California three decades ago, where they formed the core of a group of scientists and researchers in creating early personal computers.

Their project included features like the Ethernet, the laser printer and the overlapping "window-based" graphical user interface, all in 1973.

"We wanted to make the computer an indispensable part of everything that people do with information," said Lampson, now a Microsoft Corp. engineer.

The academy, part of the National Academies created by Congress as a science and technology advisory organization, also awarded the $500,000 Bernard M. Gordon Prize to Frank S. Barnes for his work in establishing the Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program at the University of Colorado 30 years ago. His program combined technical, business, economic and policy training in college engineering courses.

"I believe that our program has made many successful careers possible," said Barnes, a professor at the university. "Hundreds of graduates from this program have gone on to do important things."

The Draper prize was established in 1988 at the request of the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass., to honor the memory of "Doc Draper," a pioneer in aviation engineering.

The Gordon prize was created in 2001 as a biennial award recognizing achievements in engineering education.

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