Computer Society Names Computer Pioneers

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., 20 January, 2010 – University of Michigan professor Lynn Conway, who helped revolutionize Very Large System Integration design, and Jean Sammet, an early programmer and expert on programming languages, are the 2009 recipients of the IEEE Computer Society Computer Pioneer Award.

The Computer Pioneer Award was established in 1981 to recognize and honor the vision of those people whose efforts resulted in the creation and continued vitality of the computer industry. The award is presented to outstanding individuals whose main contribution to the concepts and development of the computer field was made at least 15 years ago. So far, nearly 100 people around the world have been honored for helping lay the foundations for modern-day computer architectures, cryptology, database management, hardware, networking, programming, software, and other technologies,

Conway, a University of Michigan professor emerita of electrical engineering and computer science, joined IBM after earning her B.S. and M.S.E.E. degrees from Columbia University. At IBM, she made foundational contributions to superscalar computer architecture in the mid-1960s, including the innovation of multiple-issue dynamic instruction scheduling (DIS).

At Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, Conway innovated scalable MOS design rules and highly simplified methods for silicon chip design, co-authoring the famous “Mead-Conway” text and pioneering the new form of university course that taught these methods – thereby launching a worldwide revolution in VLSI system design in the late-1970s.

Her citation reads: “For contributions to superscalar architecture, including multiple-issue dynamic instruction scheduling, and for the innovation and widespread teaching of simplified VLSI design methods.”

Conway also pioneered the Internet-based rapid-chip prototyping infrastructure that was institutionalized as the “MOSIS” system by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the US National Science Foundation–supporting rapid development of thousands of chip designs and leading to many Silicon Valley startups in the 1980s.

After serving as assistant director for strategic computing at DARPA from 1983 to 1985, Conway joined the University of Michigan as professor of EECS and associate dean of engineering. Her VLSI design revolution enabled her multi-issue DIS innovation to come to life in Intel’s Pentium microprocessors.

Conway is an IEEE Fellow, and was the recipient of the University of Pennsylvania’s Pender Award, the Franklin Institute’s Wetherill Medal, Secretary of Defense Meritorious Achievement Award, and the Society of Women Engineers National Achievement Award. She was elected to the Electronic Design Hall of Fame and National Academy of Engineering.

Sammet has a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. from the University of Illinois, both in mathematics. She received an honorary D.Sc. from Mount Holyoke in 1978.

Sammet organized and supervised the first scientific programming group for Sperry Gyroscope Co. from 1955 to 1958. She worked at Sylvania Electric Products from 1958 to 1961. While at Sylvania, she served as a key member of the original COBOL committee. She joined IBM in 1961 to organize and manage the Boston Programming Center in the IBM Data Systems Division to do advanced development work in programming. She initiated the concept, and directed the development, of the first FORMAC (FORmula MAnipulation Complier), for which she received an IBM Outstanding Contribution Award In 1965. (FORMAC was the first widely used general language and system for manipulating nonnumeric algebraic expressions.)

During the 1970s, she worked for IBM’s Federal Systems Division, and initiated the concept of, and managed the development of PDI/Ada and handled other Ada activities in IBM. In 1979, she became software technology manager for the division.

Sammet is the author of “PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES: History and Fundamentals,” which has become a standard programming textbook, and was described as an “instant computer classic” when it was published in 1969. She taught one of the first graduate courses in programming at Adelphi College from 1956 to 1958.

She was very active in ACM and served as president, vice president, organizer, and first chair of the Special Interest Committee on Symbolic and Algebraic Manipulation (SIGSAM); chair of the Special Interest Group on Programming Languages (SIGPLAN); editor-in-chief of the online sites Computing Reviews and ACM Guide to Computing Literature; general chair and program chair for the first SIGPLAN History of Programming Languages (HOPL) in 1978, and program chair for HOPL-II in 1993.

She also served on the USASI (now ANSI) X3.4 Committee on Programming Languages, and various groups on Ada. She organized and was the first chair of the AFIPS History of Computing committee, and helped start the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing.

Her citation reads: “For pioneering work and lifetime achievement as one of the first developers and researchers in programming languages.” She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and among other awards received a 1985 ACM Distinguished Service Award, a 1989 Augusta Ada Lovelace Award from the Association for Women in Computing, and was named a Computer History Museum Fellow in 2001.

The 2008 recipients of the Computer Pioneer Award were Jean Jeanings Bartik, who co-led the first teams of ENIAC programmers; Edward J. McCluskey, for his five decades of work on the design and synthesis of digital systems; and Carl A. Petri, for his 1962 Petri theory, which has been cited by hundreds of thousands of scientific publications and significantly advanced the parallel and distributed computing fields.

For more information about Computer Society awards, visit

About the IEEE Computer Society

With nearly 85,000 members, the IEEE Computer Society is the world’s leading organization of computing professionals. Founded in 1946, and the largest of the 39 societies of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Computer Society is dedicated to advancing the theory and application of computer and information-processing technology, and is known globally for its computing standards activities.

The Computer Society serves the information and career-development needs of today’s computing researchers and practitioners with technical journals, magazines, conferences, books, conference publications, and online courses. Its Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) program for mid-career professionals and Certified Software Development Associate (CSDA) credential for recent college graduates confirm the skill and knowledge of those working in the field. The CS Digital Library (CSDL) is an excellent research tool, containing more than 250,000 articles from 1,600 conference proceedings and 26 CS periodicals going back to 1988.

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