Research: Do you need a PhD to receive a Turing Award? Inventor of the Alto Computer

When you run across a person that has done much of the same things that you have done and gets a big award you think two things (or at least I did):

  • Cool, a computer engineer receives a Turing Award!
  • Hey how come I didn’t get one?

Ok, take a look at this bio on Chuck Thacker: and see that he really deserved this award for his work on the first personal computer, the Xerox Alto PC.

Photo 1: Two of the Xerox Alto personal computers. Each Alto processor is made of medium- and small-scale TTL integrated circuits, and is mounted in a rack beneath two 3-megabyte hard-disk drives. Note that the video displays are taller than they are wide and are similar to a page of paper, rather than standard television screen.Photo 4: The mouse input device. The operator uses the mouse to control cursor placement on the screen; it detects its own change in position (a joystick relies on absolute position) as the operator rolls it around on a piece of soft plastic. The mouse also has three buttons, called red, yellow and blue.


Now that I have read Chuck Thacker’s bio, it shows a great deal of focus and vision.  Vision I might have, focus, well, bright shiny objects come to mind.  And Vision without focus is just useless most of the time.  I would definitely have to say that my career was influenced by his work on the early personal computers, and likely so was yours.



To find out more about the Alto computer:

Photo 8: The multiplayer Mazewar game. The eye represents the persona of an opponent. Any Alto on the net can join or leave the game at any time.

And what blog post would be complete without a mention of a game made to work on the Xerox Alto, MazeWar

MazeWars is used in the CS 244b Spring 2011 class at Stanford:

You can give it a try as everything is open for your to use.  See if you could be a student at Stanford without the expense of attending!

Bottom line, Good work Chuck Thacker and congratulations!  Drinks on me if we should ever meet!