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EN | Personajes ilustres – Bell

Bell, Gordon (1934 - )

Gordon Bell was born on 19 August 1934 in Kirksville, Missouri.

Ie received his Bachelor and Master in Electrical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1956 and 1957, respectively. Later, he worked in the Speech Computation Laboratory at MIT. During this period, Bell met Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson, two MIT engineers that, in 1957, had decided to set up their own company, called Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).

In 1959, Olsen and Anderson were beginning to build a new small computer, the forerunner of the minicomputer. Bell liked the idea and, in 1960, inquired whether there was any chance of joining the project.

He was accepted and joined DEC as an engineer, where he started work on the Program Data Processor minicomputer project, commonly known as PDP. He did a good job on the PDP. This contributed to the success of these minicomputers, and Bell earned a worldwide reputation in computer science.

In 1966, he left DEC to take up a teaching position at Carnegie-Mellon University. He alternated lecturing with research into minicomputers.

In 1972, however, they managed to convince him to return to DEC. He returned in the capacity of engineering vice president, with responsibility for controlling VAX (Virtual Address Extension) development. VAX was the company’s new line of minicomputers, designed to replace the PDP-11. The VAX minicomputer, with its 32-bit architecture and VMS operating system (developed by David N. Cutler, the future head of Windows NT) was DEC’s most successful business endeavour.

Bell stayed with the company until his retirement in 1983 due to a heart attack. He had founded his own company, called Encore Computer Corporation, in July 1983. He had intended to build a new generation of small computers and to help small companies were beginning to spring up. In the late 1980s, he led the National Science Foundation initiative to build an information superhighway.

Between 1991 and 1995, he worked as an advisor of future technologies at Microsoft and helped to launch its first research laboratory. At the time, Microsoft was trying to form an important group of gurus that were to put the company ahead of its competitors. Gordon Bell joined the team in August 1995. He worked on the potential of video in high-speed networks and a system called Scalable Network and Platform Computing (SNAP), a new console architecture that would offer each operator mainframe power.

Besides his work, he also helped to found the Boston Computer Museum and published several books. He received the Eckert-Mauchly Award in 1982and the US National Medal of Technology in 1991.