Gordon Bell (born August 19, 1934) is an American electrical
engineer and manager. An early employee of Digital Equipment
Corporation (DEC) 1960–1966, Bell designed several of their PDP
machines and later became Vice President of Engineering 1972-1983,
overseeing the development of the VAX. Bell's later career includes
entrepreneur, investor, founding Assistant Director of NSF's Computing
and Information Science and Engineering Directorate 1986-1987, and
researcher emeritus at
Microsoft Research, 1995–2015.
1 Early life and education
2.1 Digital Equipment Corporation
2.2 Entrepreneur and policy advisor
4 Bell's law of computer classes
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
Early life and education
Gordon Bell was born in Kirksville, Missouri. He grew up
helping with the family business, Bell Electric, repairing appliances
and wiring homes.
Bell received a B.S. (1956), and M.S. (1957) in electrical engineering
from MIT. He then went to the New South Wales University of Technology
(now UNSW) in Australia on a Fulbright Scholarship, where he taught
classes on computer design, programmed one of the first computers to
arrive in Australia (called UTECOM, an English Electric DEUCE) and
published his first academic paper. Returning to the U.S., he worked
in the MIT Speech Computation Laboratory under Professor Ken Stevens,
where he wrote the first
Analysis by Synthesis program.
Digital Equipment Corporation
The DEC founders
Ken Olsen and
Harlan Anderson recruited him for their
new company in 1960, where he designed the
I/O subsystem of the PDP-1,
including the first UART. Bell was the architect of the PDP-4, and
PDP-6. Other architectural contributions were to the
PDP-5 and PDP-11
Unibus and General Registers architecture.
After DEC, Bell went to
Carnegie Mellon University
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
Entrepreneur and policy advisor
Bell retired from DEC in 1983 as the result of a heart attack, but
soon after founded Encore Computer, one of the first shared memory,
multiple-microprocessor computers to use the snooping cache structure.
During the 1980s he became involved with public policy, becoming the
first and founding Assistant Director of the CISE Directorate of the
NSF, and led the cross-agency group that specified the NREN.
Bell also established the ACM
Gordon Bell Prize (administered by the
ACM and IEEE) in 1987 to encourage development in parallel processing.
Gordon Bell Prize was won by researchers at the Parallel
Processing Division of Sandia National Laboratory for work done on the
1000-processor nCUBE 10 hypercube.
He was a founding member of
Ardent Computer in 1986, becoming VP of
R&D 1988, and remained until it merged with Stellar in 1989, to
become Stardent Computer.
Between 1991 and 1995, Bell advised
Microsoft in its efforts to start
a research group, then joined it full-time in August 1995, studying
telepresence and related ideas. He is the experiment subject for the
MyLifeBits project, an experiment in life-logging (not the same as
life-blogging) and an attempt to fulfill Vannevar Bush's vision of an
automated store of the documents, pictures (including those taken
automatically), 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, emails, and so
on. He continues to do so, gathering web pages browsed, phone and
instant messaging conversations and the like more or less
automatically. The Dutton book Total Recall describes the vision and
implications for lifelogging—the process of creating and maintaining
a personal, lifetime e-memory for recall, work, health, education, and
immortality. Total Recall is published in paperback as Your Life
Uploaded: The Digital Way to Better Memory, Health, and Productivity.
Bell is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association for the Advancement of Science (1983),
Association for Computing Machinery
Association for Computing Machinery (1994),
IEEE (1974), and member of
National Academy of Engineering
National Academy of Engineering (1977), National Academy of
Science (2007), and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological
Sciences and Engineering (2009).
He is also a member of the advisory board of
TTI/Vanguard and a former
member of the Sector Advisory Committee of Australia's Information and
Communication Technology Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organisation.
Bell was the first recipient of the
IEEE John von Neumann Medal, in
1992. His other awards include Fellow of the Computer History
Museum, honorary D. Eng. from WPI, the
AeA Inventor Award, the
Vladimir Karapetoff Outstanding Technical Achievement Award of Eta
Kappa Nu, and the 1991
National Medal of Technology
National Medal of Technology by President
George H.W. Bush. He was also named an
Eta Kappa Nu Eminent Member
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester Polytechnic Institute awarded Bell an Honorary
Doctor of Engineering, and in 2010, Bell received an honorary Doctor
of Science and Technology degree from Carnegie Mellon University. The
university referred to him as "the father of the minicomputer".
Bell co-founded The Computer Museum, Boston, Massachusetts, with his
Gwen Bell in 1979. He was a founding board member of its
successor, the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California. In
2003, he was made a Fellow of the Museum "for his key role in the
minicomputer revolution, and for contributions as a computer architect
and entrepreneur." The story of the museum's evolution beginning in
the early 1970s with
Ken Olsen at
Digital Equipment Corporation
Digital Equipment Corporation is
described in the
Microsoft Technical Report MSR-TR-2011-44, "Out of a
Closet: The Early Years of The Computer [x]* Museum". A timeline of
computing historical machines, events, and people is given on his
website. It covers from B.C. to the present.
Bell's law of computer classes
Main article: Bell's law of computer classes
Bell's law of computer classes was first described in 1972 with
the emergence of a new, lower priced microcomputer class based on the
microprocessor. Established market class computers are introduced at a
constant price with increasing functionality and performance.
Technology advances in semiconductors, storage, interfaces and
networks enable a new computer class (platform) to form about every
decade to serve a new need. Each new usually lower priced class is
maintained as a quasi independent industry (market). Classes include:
mainframes (1960s), minicomputers (1970s), networked workstations and
personal computers (1980s), browser-web-server structure (1990s), palm
computing (1995), web services (2000s), convergence of cell phones and
computers (2003), and Wireless Sensor Networks aka motes (2004). Bell
predicted that home and body area networks would form by 2010.
(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, ISBN 0-07-057302-6)
(with J. McNamara) High Tech Ventures: The Guide for Entrepreneurial
Success (1991, ISBN 0-201-56321-5)
(with Jim Gemmell) Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution will
Change Everything (2009, ISBN 978-0-525-95134-6)
(with Jim Gemmell) Your Life Uploaded: The Digital Way to Better
Memory, Health, and Productivity (2010, ISBN 978-0-452-29656-5)
^ Gardner Hendrie, Interviewer (June 23, 2005). "Bell (Gordon) Oral
History". Reference number: X3202.2006. Computer History Museum.
Retrieved May 20, 2011.
^ Interview Archived 2005-04-02 at the Wayback Machine. by David K.
Allison, Curator, National Museum of American History, USA, 1995.
^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of
Arts and Sciences. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
IEEE John von Neumann Medal Recipients" (PDF). IEEE. Retrieved
December 31, 2010.
National Medal of Technology
National Medal of Technology and Innovation Recipients - 1991
Laureates". United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved
December 31, 2010. In 1991 the award was called National Medal
^ "Gordon Bell". Computer History Museum. Retrieved 2013-05-23.
^ Bell, Gordon (4 April 2011). "Out of a Closet: The Early Years of
The Computer [x]* Museum".
Microsoft Technical Report MSR-TR-2011-44.
Microsoft Corporation. Accessed 2011-04-12.
^ Bell, Gordon (20 April 2014). "Timeline of Computing History:
Artifacts, Computers, Inventions, People, and Events --B.C. to 2014".
^ Bell, G., “Bell’s Law for the Birth and Death of Computer
Classes”, Communications of the ACM, January 2008, Vol 51, No. 1, pp
Wilkinson, Alec, "Remember This?" The New Yorker, 28 May 2007,
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Gordon Bell
Interview by David K. Allison, Curator, National Museum of American
History, USA, 1995.
CBS Evening News video interview on the
MyLifeBits Project, 2007.
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