LampsonFest: Celebrating a Computing Legend

 |   MSNE Staff

lampsonColleagues and friends will gather at the Microsoft New England Research & Development Center today to celebrate the many and momentous accomplishments made by computing pioneer, Microsoft New England Researcher, and Adjunct Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at MIT, Butler Lampson.

The citation for the A.M. Turing Award presented to Butler Lampson 22 years ago says it all:

For contributions to the development of distributed, personal computing environments and the technology for their implementation: workstations, networks, operating systems, programming systems, displays, security, and document publishing.

As amazing as it might seem, Lampson, indeed, has made seminal contributions to all of these foundational computing advances. His career is as accomplished as imaginable. Oh, the stories that could be told …

Today, they will be. Lampson’s colleagues from his storied computer-science career will brave the snow to pay tribute to a man whom his boss, Jennifer Chayes, a Microsoft distinguished scientist and managing director of Microsoft Research New England, refers to as “one of the all-time greats of computer science.”

LampsonFest, they’re calling it, and advance indications are that it will be as illuminating and compelling as the man it celebrates.

The Alto -  the first practical personal computer.
The Alto – the first practical personal computer.

The day will include a series of talks revisiting the history of computer systems—and issues of current concern. Those discussions will be presented in the context of Lampson’s brilliant, transformative career, one that took him from studying physics at Harvard to gaining a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley to the innovation greenhouse that was Xerox PARC back in the ’70s, then on to the Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) and, eventually, Microsoft Research.

“Butler Lampson has had a major impact on Microsoft,” says Peter Lee, Microsoft corporate vice president and head of Microsoft Research. “His technical expertise and contributions spanning computer security, distributed systems, operating systems, networking, software engineering, and algorithms have contributed in incalculable ways to Microsoft’s success.”

Rest assured that such accomplishments will provide the fodder for many fond remembrances today, less than two months after Lampson’s 70th birthday.

The scope of the day’s activities—and the star power involved—can be gleaned just by a casual look at the agenda. The names of the presenters and their talks would excite even the most hard-boiled of computing enthusiasts:

“When Butler speaks,” Lee concludes, “People listen. I listen. When I am thinking about how best to make Microsoft Research the best place it can possibly be, I always consult with Butler Lampson. He is an integral part of the heart and soul of Microsoft Research.”

As the excitement for today’s event built, the stories began to pour forth. Read more of them via the Microsoft Research blog here. And make sure to follow us on Twitter at @MSNewEngland, as we’ll be retweeting your tweets from today’s event.

Happy birthday, Butler Lampson!

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