• Jan 1, 1941
    (b.) - ?

Bio/Description

Born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts), he is an American computer scientist, best known for creating pioneering computer software. He studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) between 1958-1963. He wrote, with characteristic wit, the first editions of the Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) dictionary, a predecessor to the Jargon File. He appears in Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolutio by Steven Levy. As a member of the Tech Model Railroad Club in his student days at MIT, he was noted for his contributions to the Signals and Power Subcommittee, the technical side of the club. Steven Levy's, "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution" outlines his interest in trains and electronics, and his influence in the club. "The club was in fact his gateway into hacking; and his ability to manipulate electronics and machine code to create programs, and he discovered his programming passion with the IBM 704, but had frustration with the high level of security around the machine", Levy explains. Only those with very high clearance were able to actually handle the computer, with all programs submitted to be processed through the machine by someone else. This meant he would not find out the results of his programs until a few days after submitting them. Because of these restrictions to the IBM 704, it was not until he was introduced to the TX-0 (later nicknamed 'Tixo') that he could explore his obsession with computer programming, and members of the Railroad Club were able to access the computer directly, without having to go through a superior. Working with Jack Dennis on the TX-0 at MIT Building 26, he developed an interest in computing waveforms to synthesize music. For the PDP-1 he wrote the Harmony Compiler with which PDP-1 users coded music. Also for the PDP-1 he wrote TJ-2 (Type Justifying Program), the predecessor of the troff and nroff page layout programs developed at Bell Labs, a War card game, and, with Alan Kotok, T-Square, a drafting program that used a Spacewar! controller for an input device. He also wrote the Expensive Planetarium star display for Spacewar!. He was a contributing architect to the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) PDP-6, and wrote the machine's first Fortran compiler and he is the author of Fortran II. At Systems Concepts, he programmed the first Chinese-character digital communication system, while he was Director of Marketing and Director of Program Development. He designed the Systems Concepts Digital Synthesizer. Built at Systems Concepts, it was for ten years the primary engine for the computer music group at Stanford University Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). He oversaw manufacturing engineering for hardware including the central memory subsystem for the ILLIAC IV supercomputer complex at the NASA Ames Research Center. At Autodesk, he contributed to rendering, animation, Web browsing, and scripting languages. He received U.S. patents in software anti-piracy and virtual reality. In 1966 he attempted to ride all lines of the New York City Subway in the shortest possible time. True to the MIT hacker culture he enlisted a computer in planning for the event. Despite missing out on the then fastest time, his attempt was to act as the inspiration for many similar subway racing attempts. He appears in the Computer History Museum "Mouse That Roared" panel discussion recorded in May 2006 to celebrate the restoration of a PDP-1. For the restoration project he reverse-engineered music tapes from the PDP-1 era and built a player for the museum where he is currently a docent.
  • Date of Birth:

    Jan 1, 1941
  • Gender:

    Male
  • Noted For:

    Creator of pioneering computer software, among which are the Harmony Compiler for the PDP-1 with which users coded music, and Expensive Planetarium; the star display for Spacewar, one of the first interactive computer games
  • Category of Achievement:

  • More Info: