Microprogramming Pioneer Maurice V. Wilkes Remembered

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., 29 November, 2010 – British computer scientist Sir Maurice V. Wilkes, an IEEE Computer Society 60th Anniversary Award recipient for his pioneering of microprogramming, has passed away at the age of 97.

Wilkes was the developer of the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC), the first practical stored-program electronic computer. The machine, inspired by John von Neumann’s seminal First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC, was built by Wilkes and his team at the University of Cambridge Mathematical Laboratory (later renamed the Computing Laboratory) in the United Kingdom in the 1940s.

The author of five seminal books on computing, including "Memoirs of a Computer Pioneer" (MIT Press, 1985) and "Computing Perspectives" (Morgan-Kaufmann, 1995), in addition to hundreds of articles, Wilkes has received numerous professional recognitions for his pioneering accomplishments.

In 1951, he and two colleagues wrote the first book on computer programming, “The Preparation of Programs for an Electronic Digital Computer.” In that book, they proposed a system that went on to be widely accepted by industry. In 1965, he published the first paper on cache memories, followed later by a book on time-sharing.

In 1975, Wilkes participated in the design study for what became known as the Cambridge Ring. The Cambridge Model Distributed System, a pioneering client-server system, was based on this ring.

A 1980 winner of the ACM/IEEE Computer Society Eckert-Mauchly Award, Wilkes was a frequent contributor to the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing.

He led the Cambridge Computing Laboratory and taught computer science at Cambridge until 1980. He worked as a senior consulting engineer at Digital Equipment Corp. from 1980-1986; an adjunct professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1981-1985; and an Olivetti research strategy member from 1986-1989. In 2002, Wilkes returned to Cambridge as an Emeritus Professor.

Among his honors and awards: He was named a Royal Society member in 1956 and served as the British Computer Society’s first president from 1957-1960. He won an ACM Turing Award in 1967 and the Harry Goode Memorial Award the following year. In 1981, he received the IEEE Computer Society McDowell Award and the Faraday Medal from the Institution of Electrical Engineers, and in 1992 was the recipient of the Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology.

Wilkes was co-recipient of the Computer Society 60th Anniversary Award. For more details, visit http://www.computer.org/portal/web/awards/60thaward.

He was a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He was a Foreign Associate of both the US National Academy of Sciences and the US National Academy of Engineering. He held honorary degrees from the universities of Newcastle, Hull, Kent, London, Amsterdam, Munich, and Bath.

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 38 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. For more information, go to http://www.computer.org.

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