Computer Pioneers II: Hewlett, Packard, and Cray
November 3rd, 1999

In last week's column we looked at some of the early computer pioneers. We are going to continue with that topic this week, and we are doing so with the help of Bill Kelley of Beverly Hills, California. Bill was working for Apple in the late 70's and he recommended several of his contemporaries who laid the groundwork for a number of today's technologies. Not only are we going to look at the people Bill recommended, but he has promised to write a guest column very soon, giving us an inside perspective of what was going on at Apple back then. Bill suggested that we look at Les Felsenstein, Ted Nelson, Paul Terrel, and Jim Warren. We are also going to look at the careers of Seymore Cray, William Hewlett, and David Packard.

Les Felsenstein

Les Felsenstein was born in Philadelphia in 1945. He attended the University of California at Berkeley, graduating in 1972. According to Bill Kelley, Mr. Felsenstein wanted to put computer kiosks everywhere for people to walk up to and get information, i.e., a community information/intelligence system. One of his first accomplishments was to moderate meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club, a group designed to discuss structure of computer development. From members of this club, 23 companies were founded and the practices and principles known as "open architecture" were developed and adopted. "Open architecture" is the basis for all modern computer system development. In 1980-81 he designed the Osborne portable computer. This computer is now on display in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. He organized the very first Hacker's Conference (this is when hacker was still a positive description) in 1984 and in 1989 he traveled to the Soviet Union to assist the software and computer industry there. Currently he lives in Palo Alto, CA and works at Interval Research Corporation as a senior researcher.

Ted Nelson

While reading about Ted Nelson I came to two conclusions very quickly. He marches to his own drummer and he is adamantly passionate about his beliefs. When asked what it is that he does he responds, "I build paradigms. I work on complex ideas and make up words for them. It is the only way." Ted Nelson earned a MA in Sociology from Harvard, in 1963. He currently is a Visiting Professor of Environmental Information at Keio University in Japan and Visiting Professor of Multimedia at the University of Southampton in England. He has published several books including Computer Lib/Dream Machines in 1969. Bill Kelly particularly mentioned this book as playing a key roll in the development of the computer industry. Ted Nelson is perhaps best known for coining the words "hypertext" and "Hypermedia" in 1965. He foresaw that millions of people would be publishing hypertext, anarchically and without restriction, on a worldwide network. When he started talking about this back in the 60's no one else had a clue what it was all about. He disagrees emphatically with the use of HTML and with the concept of unifying Web structure under XML. He also considers applications to be a great evil because the activity and data are traps that bind and limit the user. Ted Nelson has created software called Zigzag which he feels will be the first step toward a new approach to computing.

Paul Terrel

I was not able to find information about Paul Terrel, but Bill Kelley noted that Mr. Terrel founded the first franchised personal computer stores, called the Byte Shops, in 1976. Perhaps Bill will discuss Paul Terrel in more depth when he writes his guest column.

Jim Warren

Bill Kelley notes that Jim Warren's most notable efforts in the development of the modern computer world was his founding of the West Coast Computer Faire. It was at the second Faire that the Apple was first introduced and became the hit of the show. Jim Warren is a writer and computer professional in California. He has received awards recognizing his contributions from the Hugh M. Hefner organization, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It was he who, in 1993, led the effort to make state legislation and statutes available via the public nets without state charge. He also founded InfoWorld and was founding host of Computer Chronicles on PBS. He holds graduate degrees in computing, medical information science, and mathematics and statistics.

Seymour Cray

In a large research center, located in Austin, Texas, is a giant computer known as the Cray Supercomputer. It is one of several that at one time was the fastest computer in the world, and was of such interest to people that there is a large viewing window located in the room where the Cray sits here in Austin. It no longer holds the distinction of being the be all and end all of computers, but it's founder, Seymour Cray is known as the Father of the Supercomputer as he is credited with developing the first fully transistorized supercomputer in 1958. He spent his entire career designing large-scale computer equipment, even stepping down from CEO positions in Cray Research and Control Data Corporation to concentrate on the research and designs. He was born in 1925 in Wisconsin and died in 1996 as the result of an auto accident. He received an MS in applied mathematics from the University of Minnesota in 1951.

William Hewlett

William Hewlett and David Packard were the creative and business genesis' behind the very successful Hewlett-Packard Company. William Hewlett was born in 1910 in Michigan. He received an MS in electrical engineering from MIT in 1936 and an engineering degree from Stanford University in 1939. Hewlett and Packard met in college and started their company in a garage shortly after graduation, and in so doing, began the myth of the Garage Startup. Their initial capital investment was $538. Mr. Hewlett served in the Army during WWII, but immediately rejoined HP upon his return to California. By 1969 he was CEO. He retired in 1978, a step that was part of his long range company plan. He became a member of the board of directors in and 1987 was named director emeritus. Like many wealthy people, William Hewlett has devoted a great deal of personal time and money to charity, including starting the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation with an initial endowment of $70 million dollars.

David Packard

The other half of the Hewlett-Packard partnership was David Packard. He was born in 1912 in Colorado. Like his partner, he received an MS in electrical engineering from Stanford in 1939. He also took his turn at the positions of CEO and chairman of the board. However, in 1969 he left the company to become US Deputy Secretary of Defense for the Nixon administration. Following his resignation from that position, he returned to HP. David Packard's philanthropic activities also included a foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Through the foundation he has also given millions of dollars to charities and community activities. It is amazing what one can do with $538 and some hard work isn't it?

We haven't even gotten to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates yet, have we. Stay tuned for next week's column when we will discuss these two gentlemen and their profound influence on both the computer industry and their the business world.

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