Career Profiles

Explore profiles of real professionals and students to learn how they got started, what they love about computing, and all about the fascinating work they do.
David Walden

David Walden

Retired Computing Professional

Degree(s):

B.A. (math), San Francisco State College, 1964
Graduate coursework, Computer science, MIT, 1966-1968
“Start reading the computing literature and find a way to begin building hardware or writing software now; don’t wait until you start taking formal computer courses. Practice so you write prose fast and well; it will help your thinking and give you an advantage over all those computer people from whom writing is hard.”

I discovered an IBM 1620 computer while studying math, at which I was not very good, and thereafter I spent a lot of time writing programs. Upon graduation, I applied for jobs as a computer programmer and was hired by MIT Lincoln Lab. There, I evolved from a novice to a journeyman computer programmer under the mentorship of Will Crowther, the author of the first computer adventure game. I then moved to BBN where I had to good fortune to become part of the small team that developed the packet-switching technology for the ARPANET, the precursor of the Internet.
Read Dave’s computing memoir for the IEEE History Center Global History Network:
http://walden-family.com/cshc/archive/pubs/walden-memoir.pdf

As I became an experienced computer programmer and learned about designing overall computer systems, my career evolved step by step: programmer, software project leader, department leader, assistant division director, and general manager. In these latter jobs I was involved in sales and marketing as well as management. An important lesson was that I couldn’t simultaneously be a manager and remain a top rank technical person. However, I could accomplish bigger things as a manager, and was able to see a variety of business situations: contract R&D, product start-up, growth system business, and business shut down. It was interesting and exciting.

I am a serial hobbiest, spending vast amounts of time on whatever hobby I have been interested in. Over the years these activities have included contract bridge, musical theater, postal chess, juggling, sailing, playing Irish traditional music, and now (in retirement) writing, editing, and self-publishing about computing history and business management. Curiously, the most recent area of interest involves lots of computing (website development, typesetting, publishing workflow, etc.). In addition I read a lot of fiction and try to see at least one movie a week: http://walden-family.com/public/movie-index.htm

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King's Quest
Roberta Williams

Video games immerse users in a world of high tech thrills, stunning visuals, unique challenges, and interactivity. They enable users to become a warrior princess or a gruesome ghoul, create a virtual persona, or even develop worlds that other gamers can play on. But before the games of today became reality, they were the dreams of a few innovative individuals.

Roberta Williams is considered one of the pioneers of gaming as we know it today. During the 80’s and 90’s along with husband Ken Williams through their company On-Line Systems, she developed some of the first graphical adventure games. These included such titles as Mystery House, Wizard and the Princess and the popular King’s Quest series. Williams also helped introduce more girls and women to the world of gaming by bringing games developed from a woman’s perspective to mainstream market.

Cursor
James Dammann

If you have used a word processor today, moved your mouse on your laptop, dragged an object around on your smartphone, or highlighted a section of text on your tablet, you can thank Jim Dammann. In 1961 during his second year at IBM and just one year after completing his PhD, Jim created the concept of what today we all take for granted -- the cursor. This idea he documented in utilizing the cursor within word processing operations.

After retiring from IBM, Jim went on to inspire future generations of software engineers at Florida Atlantic University. His work there too demonstrated his creativity for he spent considerable effort enhancing their software engineering program by integrating ideas and feedback from local industries into the University curricular. Today, Jim lives in the Westlake Hills west of Austin Texas and spends most of his time in his art studio. He wrote and published The Opaque Decanter, a collection of poems about art, which provided a new view at part of art history.

Turing machine
Alan Mathison Turing
Alan Mathison Turing

Did you know that computing has been used in military espionage and has even influenced the outcome of major wars? Alan Mathison Turing designed the code breaking machine that enabled the deciphering of German communications during WWII. As per the words of Winston Churchill, this would remain the single largest contribution to victory. In addition, he laid the groundwork for visionary fields such as automatic computing engines, artificial intelligence and morphogenesis. Despite his influential work in the field of computing, Turing experienced extreme prejudice during his lifetime regarding his sexual orientation. There is no doubt that computers are ubiquitously part of our lives due to the infusion of Turing’s contributions.

Router
Sandra Lerner

It is difficult to imagine a time when computers were not capable of sharing information and resources with great ease. Sandra Lerner pushed the boundaries of network computing as one of the co-founders of Cisco Systems, which introduced one of the first commercially viable routers. The router was born while Sandra was working at Stanford University in the 1980’s after earning her Master’s degree there in Computer Science. To avoid the tedious task of transferring information between computers using floppy disks, she and co-founder of Cisco, Leonard Bosack, created a local area network, or LAN, between their campus offices using a multiprotocol router that Bosack developed. Shortly thereafter the pair started Cisco Systems, and began selling the router which was a success, because it could work with so many different types of computers. After Leaving Cisco in 1990, Lerner started the trendy cosmetics company Urban Decay and became a philanthropist and avid activist for animal rights.

RISC processor
John Hennessy
John Hennessy

Have you ever wondered how computers can execute complex commands in mere seconds? John Hennessy is a pioneer of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architecture which employs small, highly-optimized sets of instructions to greatly enhance computer performance. He was instrumental in transferring the technology, specifically MIPS RISC architecture, to industry. He co-founded MIPS Technologies and co-authored the classic textbook with David A. Patterson, on Computer Architecture.

As Stanford faculty he rose to be the Chairman of the Computer Science Department, Dean of the School of Engineering, then Provost and finally the President of Stanford in 2000 (and till date). Hennessy holds a Master’s and Ph.D. in Computer Science from SUNY Stony Brook. He is an IEEE Fellow and was selected to receive the IEEE Medal of Honor in 2012. Hennessey also launched significant activities that helped to foster interdisciplinary research in the biosciences and bioengineering at Stanford.

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