Obituaries in the History of Computing, 2011

The Board of Digital Equipment (Ken Thompson is at center)

Last year, around this time, I submitted a blog post summarizing the obituaries of a number of major figures in the history of computing who died in 2010. Given the worldwide headlines in response to the death of Steve Jobs two months ago, I think it makes sense to turn that post into a yearly tradition, reminding us of the less-recognized contributors to the history of computing who we have lost.   I was, in fact, rather stunned at the number of names turned up by a simple search for stories containing "obituary" and "computer"  in the last twelve months in the New York Times.  The computing of the 1960s and 70s is now rapidly passing out of the realm contemporary and oral history.Here's what I turned up:


    • Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).


    • David Rumelhart, psychologist who made seminal contributons to cognitive science.



    • Jack Wolf, information theorist and computer storage innovator.
    • Tom West, Data General engineer and protagonist of The Soul of a New Machine.


    • Robert Morris, cryptographer and creator of the UNIX security scheme, father of the "Morris worm" Robert Morris.


    • Ken Oshman, co-founder of Rolm Corporation, a leader in digital switching. 



    • Steve Jobs, needs no introduction.
    • John McCarthy, helped to found the field of artificial intelligence and spread the idea of time-shared computing. 
    • Dennis Ritchie, creator of the C programming language, major contributor to early UNIX.


    • John Opel, president and then CEO of IBM from 1974 to 1985. 

    Of course, this search is heavily U.S.-biased: I have not really done my homework here.  Please leave a comment if you know of someone who I've missed.


        Thanks to all who have commented on the listserv and below so far with deaths that I missed (source attributed in parentheses):

        • In March, Mike Padlipsky, "an Arpanet Old Boy and the author of the Elements of Networking Style." (Andrew Russell)
        • Also in March, Paul Baran, one of the inventors of packet-switched networking and an enterpreneur in computer networking. (Andrew Russell)
        • In July, Jean Carteron, "who created the computing center of Electricité de France in 1952, was active in the foundation and early management of IFIP  and created a leading European software house, STERIA." (Pierre Mounier-Kuhn)
        • In August, Tony Sale, "Computer scientist behind the rebuilding of the wartime code-breaking Colossus." (Martin Campbell-Kelly via Bernardo Batiz-Lazo)
        • Also in August, Daniel McCracken, "Author of hugely successful textbooks on computing."  (Martin Campbell-Kelly via Bernardo Batiz-Lazo)
        • In October, Gaetano Aurelio Lanzarone, "pioneer of structured programming, A.I., Prolog, and computing & philosophy in Italy." (Federico Gobbo)
        • This month, Dan Sinnott, one of the founders of minicomputer maker Interdata. (Evan Koblentz)
        • This week, Norman Krim, "very active in finding applications for the newly-invented transistors and was a major figure in the early days of Radio Shack." (Peter Eckstein)
        • Just yesterday, Jacob Goldman, founder of Xerox PARC. (Evan Koblentz)