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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

March 9, 2010 at 9:21 AM

Microsoft’s Thacker wins Turing Award

One of the fathers of the PC industry, Microsoft researcher Chuck Thacker, won the industry’s highest honor, the A.M. Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery.

Thacker, 67, was among the founding members of the famed Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, where he designed the Alto system that gave shape to the personal computer in the early 1970s.

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“Charles Thacker’s contributions have earned him a reputation as one of the most distinguished computer systems engineers in the history of the field,” ACM President Professor Dame Wendy Hall said in the announcement. “His enduring achievements–from his initial innovations on the PC to his leadership in hardware development of the multiprocessor workstation to his role in developing the tablet PC–have profoundly affected the course of modern computing.”

He’s the second person to receive $250,000 award for his contributions designing and building computing machinery; it usually goes to computer scientists for conceptual or theoretical work, a writeup at Microsoft’s press site noted.

“I was extremely surprised,” Thacker said in the release. “I never expected to win this one. There are several other nice awards that I’ve won that I thought were within the realm of possibility, but this one I never even thought was possible.”

Thacker was nominated by Butler Lampson, another computing pioneer now working at Microsoft Research. The company provided an excerpt of his nomination letter:

“Chuck is surely one of the most distinguished computer-systems engineers in the history of the field. Chuck is an engineer’s engineer. His skills span the full range, from analog-circuit and power-supply design through logic design, processor and network architecture, system software, languages, and applications as varied as CAD and electronic books, all the way to user-interface design.”

The award was sponsored by Google and Intel. Intel Labs vice president, Andrew Chien, said in the release that “Charles Thacker’s design of the Alto computer embodied the key elements of today’s personal computers, and is at the root one of the world’s most innovative industries that empowers individuals around the world. We applaud Chuck’s clarity of insight, focus on simplicity, and his incredible track record of designing landmark systems that have accelerated the progress of both research and industry for decades.”

Google research vice president, Alfred Spector, praised Thacker “for his far-reaching role in the birth of one of the most important technologies in the 20th century.”

Comments | Topics: chuck thacker, Google, intel

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