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  • Jan 1, 1922
    (b.) -
    Jan 1, 1991


Born in Southern California, he attended Fullerton High School, and then Fullerton Junior College from 1939 to February 1943. At the same time, he worked as a timekeeper at the Douglas Aircraft Company, where he was responsible for time-card calculations and reports. He served in the U.S. Navy for three years during World War II as an aircraft navigator in the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron in Iwo Jima, Japan and as a navigation instructor. He returned to California in 1947 and began working for the Beneficial Standard Life Insurance Company as an assistant to the actuary, compiling actuarial calculations of premium rates, reserve liabilities, and annual reports. By 1948, he received his Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from UCLA and in 1950 joined the newly formed RAND Corporation as a mathematician. His early work at RAND involved administrative matters, such as improving the processes of company management through automation of the computation and calculation techniques. This work included collaboration with Allen Newell on a radar simulator. In the mid-1950s, he and Newell, and later Dr. Herbert Simon of the Carnegie Institute of Technology, formed the team known by the mid-1950s in the artificial intelligence field as NSS (Newell, Shaw, and Simon). The NSS team broke much ground in the field of artificial intelligence, programming languages, computer simulation of human problem solving, and man-machine communication. The radar simulator project involved studying how humans made decisions and whether one could design a program that could simulate human decision-making. While Newell and Simon concentrated on the human behavior aspect, he focused on creating a programming language that would implement Simon and Newell’s concepts. The NSS Team was involved in developing and producing programs such as The JOHNNIAC which became the basis for his work on conversational time-sharing in the 1960s and a viable language that could simulate human behavior in 1954. In the mid-1950s, NSS began forming the theoretical basis for what they called Complex Information Processing (C.I.P.). C.I.P was the basis for the three main computer programs developed by NSS: the Chess Program, Logic Theorist (LT), and the General Problem Solver (GPS). In early 1954, the Team focused on creating programs that would enable a machine to exhibit intelligent behavior and “think” like a human. Chess and the Logic Theorist (LT) were the first programs that evolved from their work. He developed IPL (Information Processing Language), which was one of the first list processing languages. Through experimentation with assemblers, compilers, and interpreters, he developed list processing sequences that allowed the computer to arrange and store data more effectively. The effectiveness stemmed from links that formed the lists. From a storage point of view, lists were inefficient. He translated Simon and Newell’s ideas into IPL. The IPL interpreter translated the IPL list processing statements into machine language and decision making into a machine language. Although not specifically programmed so, one of LT’s innovative characteristics was that it proved mathematical theorems from Whitehead and Russell’s Principia Mathematica, including a proof from Theorem 2.85 that the authors had missed. This was the most fascinating aspect of the program because LT was not programmed to find alternative proofs. The team’s work on the LT was completed by the end of 1955, and it perfected the program language in the winter and spring of 1956. By 1957, NSS had constructed the General Problem Solver (GPS) program that attempted to demonstrate various human thinking processes in a variety of environments. At RAND and Carnegie Tech, studies were conducted that had human subjects think aloud in hopes of identifying human problem solving techniques and simulating them in GPS. By 1960, when the JOHNNIAC was of insufficient computing power to support the level of computation needed, and IPL had been reprogrammed for the IBM 7090, List Processing (LISP), a high-level programming language had overtaken IPL as the language of choice for Artificial Intelligence research. His interests had shifted towards attempting to simplify the use of computers for all types of computer users. Until this point, a user would have to be adequately trained in programming or need assistance from a programmer to use a computer like JOHNNIAC. He was interested in programming the JOHNNIAC so RAND staff could utilize the computer for small as well as large scientific computations. Although JOHNNIAC was no longer state-of-the-art by this time, its major appeal was its reliability and capability for experimentation. These factors were the impetus for the initiation of the JOHNNIAC Open-Shop System (JOSS) project in November 1960. JOSS was intended to be an easy to use, on-line, time sharing system. In 1971, he took a one-year appointment as a Research Associate in the Information Science Department at the California Institute of Technology. In 1972, he began working as a consultant which he continued for the rest of his professional career. Much of his work in the 1970s and 1980s consisted of formulating new ideas on operations research, video games, man-machine interfaces, interactive computer systems, time-sharing, information architecture design, and artificial intelligence. During the 1980s, Shaw also became more involved in church-related activities. His work on creating the Information Processing Language in the 1950s and the JOSS program in the 1960s were the two major contributions he made to the fields of programming and artificial intelligence. His IPL-I programming language is one of the earliest examples of list processing languages now in widespread use. The JOSS program was one of the first easy-to use, remotely accessible, interactive programs that allowed non-programmers to utilize the power of a computer. His Papers contain reports, research notes, correspondence, memoranda, and diagrams as well as printed material on the RAND Corporation and the evolution of the artificial intelligence and electronic computer industry in the 1950s and 1960s. In addition, there is biographical material documenting his personal interests, family, and academic career.
  • Date of Birth:

    Jan 1, 1922
  • Date of Death:

    Jan 1, 1991
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  • Noted For:

    Developer of IPL (Information Processing Language) which was one of the first list processing languages and part of a team that broke much ground in the field of artificial intelligence, programming languages, computer simulation of human problem solving, and man-machine communication
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