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.
Brown

Ronald O. Brown

President, Ronald O. Brown Consulting, Casco, United States

Degree(s):

BSEE (with distinction), University of Maine, Orono ME
MSEE, Tufts University, Medford MA
PhD, Queen's University at Kingston, Kingston Ontario
“Two important points: 1) There is no such thing as an unimportant course. 2) Always define the whole problem; otherwise, the laws of unintended consequences will ensnare you.”

I'm a IT systems engineer, that is I look at the whole issue and integrate the parts. I don't specialize in any particular subsystem, like the computer, network, etc. My spark was lit in a 1961 undergrad class in communications where I learned about speech, hearing, information, computers, and voice, data, and image telecommunications and communications; and business processes. I went on to receive my doctorate in electrical engineering. As a systems engineer, I integrate all of these to make a working system. I first used the cloud in 1979 presentation and implemented the world's first CLEC in 1983. I'm having a great ride!

Tough question. There are several candidates, but the winner is conceiving, designing, and directing the implementation of the world's first Competitive Local Exchange (telephone) Company, CLEC, as well as the first all digital synchronous network that converged voice, data, and image communications. After conceiving it, I designed it. I demonstrated that it would work to the customer, Westinghouse Electric. I showed that it would be cost effective. I had to overcome both technical challenges and political ones. For example, a letter from the President of Bell of Pennsylvania stating it would not work. But we completed it on schedule and under budget, and it was a financial success. In 1983, it was the first convergence of voice, data, and image communications and computers. It was the beginning of the cloud!

I'm old enough to retire, but I still take on a few projects a year as an expert in patent, anti-trust, contracts, and other civil matters. I am active in the IEEE, STEM education development, and the Maine Technology Users Group where I direct a STEM scholarship program. I thoroughly enjoy it. I live in a log cabin on a (drinkable) lake and also take time for a myriad of activities! I water ski, sail, and swim in the summer; ice skate, snowshoe, and ski in the winter; then too, there's the symphony and art museum. Most important are five grandchildren whom I see as often as possible. Life is full! Life is good!

Brown presenting

Brown's business tips

Brown at the University of Maine

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@ symbol
Ray Tomlinson
Ray Tomlinson

Have you ever considered that someone, at some point, was in a position to choose what symbol would be used separate the user from their location in an email address? That person, it turns out, was Ray Tomlinson, and in 1971 he chose "@". Tomlinson is credited with demonstrating the first email sent between computers on a network, and when asked what inspired him to make this selection he said, “Mostly because it seemed like a neat idea.”

After completing his Master’s degree at MIT in 1965, Ray joined the Information Sciences Division of Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since then he has made many notable contributions to the world of network computing. He was a co-developer of the TENEX computer system that was popular in the earliest days of the Internet; he developed the packet radio protocols used in the earliest internetworking experiments; he created the first implementation of TCP; and he was the principle designer of the first workstation attached to the Internet.

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.

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.

Punch card from a COBOL program
Jean Sammet

Jean E. Sammet was one of the first developers and researchers in programming languages. During the 1950’s - 1960’s she supervised the first scientific programming group for Sperry Gyroscope Co. and served as a key member of the original COBOL (COmmon Business-Oriented Language) committee at Sylvania Electric Products. She also taught one of the first graduate programming courses in the country at Adelphi College. After joining IBM in 1961, she developed and directed the first FORMAC (FORmula MAnipulation Compiler). This was the first widely used general language and system for manipulating nonnumeric algebraic expressions. In 1979 she began handling Ada activities for IBM’s Federal Systems Division. Ada is a structured, object-oriented high-level computer programming language, designed for large, long-lived applications, where reliability and efficiency are paramount. Jean has a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. from the University of Illinois, both in Mathematics. She received an honorary D.Sc. from Mount Holyoke (1978).

MATLAB graph
Cleve Moler

Cleve Moler improved the quality and accessibility of mathematical software and created a highly respected software system called MATLAB. He was a professor of mathematics and computer science for almost 20 years at the University of Michigan, Stanford University, and the University of New Mexico. In the late 1970’s to early 1980’s he developed several mathematical software packages to support computational science and engineering. These packages eventually formed the basis of MATLAB, a programming environment for algorithm development, data analysis, visualization, and numerical computation. MATLAB can be used to solve technical computing problems faster than with traditional programming languages, such as C, C++, and Fortran. Today, Professor Moler spends his time writing books, articles, and MATLAB programs.

Listen to what Professor Moler has to say about his life’s work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT5umwNSAxE

Image credits