Chuck Thacker

Chuck Thacker
TECHNICAL FELLOW
.

November 2008

Chuck Thacker was fortunate to enter computing at a time when the fundamental electronic technologies had matured to the point that many of the predictions of the field’s pioneers could finally be achieved. Educated in Physics at the University of California at Berkeley, he joined the university's project Genie in 1968. This project had constructed one of the most successful early timesharing computers, the SDS 940, and was planning a follow-on system when he joined the project.

The project became the Berkeley Computer Corporation, which developed the BCC 500 timesharing system. Here, he led the group designing the system’s central memory and microprocessor. Although not a commercial success, BCC supplied the core group of technologists for the newly-formed Computer Science Laboratory at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), which he joined in 1970.

During his thirteen years at PARC, Chuck led the hardware development of most of the innovative systems that were developed at CSL. He was the project leader of the MAXC timesharing system, a PDP-10-equivalent that was one of the first systems to make use of semiconductor memory. He was the chief designer of the Alto, the first personal computer to use a bit-mapped display and mouse to provide a windowed user interface. He is a co-inventor of the Ethernet local area network, and contributed to many other projects, including the first laser printer and the Dorado, a high-performance ECL-technology personal workstation. He also designed and implemented the SIL CAD system, which was used by most PARC hardware designers throughout the '70s. In the early '80s, he was architect of the Dragon, a multiprocessor system that employed the first "snooping" cache.

In 1983, Chuck was a founder of the Digital Equipment Corporation's Systems Research Center. Here he led the hardware development of the Firefly, the first multiprocessor workstation, and the Alpha Demonstration Unit, the first Alpha-architecture multiprocessor.

Chuck has also worked extensively in computer networking. He led the development of AN1, a local area network that used active switches and 100 Megabit-per-second point-to-point links to provide high aggregate performance. The follow-on project, AN2, also developed by his team, became the DEC Gigaswitch/ATM product.

He joined Microsoft in 1997 to help establish the Company's Cambridge, England laboratory. After returning to the U.S. in 1999, he joined the newly-formed Tablet PC group and managed the design of the first prototypes of this new device. He then worked on a project to make computing more pervasive and effective in K-12 education. He is currently setting up a group at Microsoft Research in Silicon Valley to do computer architecture research.

Chuck has published extensively, and holds a number of U.S. patents in computer systems and networking. In 1984, he was awarded (with B. Lampson and R. Taylor) the ACM's Software Systems Award for the development of the Alto. He is a Distinguished Alumnus of the Computer Science Department of the University of California, and holds an Honorary Doctorate from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). He is a member of the IEEE, a fellow of the ACM, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, which awarded him (with Butler Lampson, Alan Kay, and Robert Taylor) the 2004 Charles Stark Draper prize for the developed of the first networked personal computers.  In 2007 he was awarded the John Von Neumann medal by the IEEE.