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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First computer mouse
Douglas Engelbart
Douglas Engelbart

In 1967, Douglas Engelbart applied for a patent for an "X-Y position indicator for a display system," which he and his team developed at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, California. The device, a small, wooden box with two metal wheels, was nicknamed a "mouse" because a cable trailing out of the one end resembled a tail.

In addition to the first computer mouse, Engelbart’s team developed computer interface concepts that led to the GUI interface, and were integral to the development of ARPANET--the precursor to today’s Internet. Engelbart received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Oregon State University in 1948, followed by an MS in 1953 and a Ph.D. in 1955 both from the University of California, Berkeley.

CGA palette
Mark Dean

If you have ever used a PC with a color display you have been acquainted with the work of Mark Dean. After achieving a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, Dean began his career at IBM. Dean served as the chief engineer on the team that developed the first IBM PC, for which he currently holds one third of the patents. With colleague Dennis Moeller, he developed the Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) systems bus, which enabled peripheral devices such as printers, keyboards, and modems to be directly connected to computers, making them both affordable and practical. He also developed the Color Graphics Adapter which allowed for color display on the PC. Most recently, Dean spearheaded the team that developed the one-gigahertz processor chip. Dean went on to obtain a MSEE from Florida Atlantic University and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and is the first African-American IBM Fellow.

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).

@ 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.

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.

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