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.

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.

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.

Liz Gerber - Image credit Lisa Beth Anderson
Liz Gerber
Liz Gerber - Image credit Lisa Beth Anderson

Liz Gerber earned her MS and PhD in Product Design and Management Science and Engineering at Stanford. She specializes in design and human-computer interaction, particularly how social computing supports the innovation process. Her current research investigates crowd-funding as a mechanism for reducing disparities in entrepreneurship.
Gerber's work funded by the US National Science Foundation and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance has appeared in peer-reviewed journals, including Transactions on Computer Human Interactions, Design Studies, and Organization Science.
As an award-winning teacher and researcher, Liz has touched the lives of more than 6,000 students through her teaching at Northwestern's Segal Design Institute and Stanford University's Hasso Plattner's Institute of Design and through her paradigm-shifting creation, Design for America, a national network of students using design to tackle social challenges.

Image credit - Lisa Beth Anderson

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.

Image credits