Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
This article is about Gordon Bell, the computer engineer. For Gordon Bell the artist, see Gordon Bell (artist).
C. Gordon Bell (August 19, 1934) is a leading computer engineer and manager, an early employee of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) who designed several of their PDP machines and later rose to Vice President of Engineering and oversaw the development of the VAX.
Born in Kirksville, Missouri, he received a B.S. (1956) and M.S. (1957) in electrical engineering from MIT, then worked in the Speech Computation Laboratory. An acquaintance of DEC founders Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson , they recruited him for their new company in 1960, where he designed the I/O subsystem of the PDP-1, PDP-4, PDP-5, and PDP-6.
After making a name for himself at DEC, Bell went to Carnegie-Mellon University in 1966 to teach computer science, but returned to DEC in 1972 as vice-president of engineering, where he was in charge of the VAX, DEC's most successful computer.
Bell retired from DEC in 1983 as the result of a heart attack, but soon after founded Encore Computer. During the 1980s he became involved with public policy, leading the Computers and Information Science and Engineering directorate of the NSF, and National Research and Education Network . He also established the IEEE Gordon Bell Prize in 1987 to encourage development in parallel processing.
Between 1991 and 1995 Bell advised Microsoft in its efforts to start a research group, then joined it full time, where he works as of 2003, studying telepresence and related ideas. He is the experiment subject for the MyLifeBits project, an attempt to fulfill Vannevar Bush's vision of an automated store of the documents, pictures and sounds an individual has experienced in his lifetime, to be accessed with speed and ease. For this, Bell has digitized all documents he has read or produced, CDs he has listened to, emails, and so on. Currently he continues to do so, gathering web-browsing statistics, instant messaging conversations and the like more or less automatically.
- (with Allen Newell) Computer Structures: Readings and Examples (1971)
- (with C. Mudge and J. McNamara ) Computer Engineering (1978)
- (with Dan Siewiorek and Allen Newell) Computer Structures: Readings and Examples (1982)
- High Tech Ventures: The Guide for Entrepreneurial Success
From Computer World "VAX Man" interview, Oct. 1992.
- "Microsoft NT...is going to be very far-reaching. It's going to grab the rug out from under Unix."
- "In 10 years, you'll see 99% of the hardware and software systems sold through what are fundamentally retail stores."
- "Twenty-five years from now...Computers will be exactly like telephones. They are probably going to be communicating all the time ... I would hope that by the year 2000 there is this big [networking] infrastructure, giving us arbitrary bandwidth on a pay-as-you-go basis."
- "Somebody once said, 'He's never wrong about the future, but he does tend to be wrong about how long it takes.' "
One of his classic sayings while working at DEC:
- "The most reliable components are the ones you leave out."
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