Xerox PARC pioneer turned Microsoft researcher Charles Thacker wins Turing Award

“The Turing Award, often called the Nobel prize of computer science, was announced on Tuesday and the 2009 winner was Charles P. Thacker,” Steve Lohr reports for The New York Times. “Mr. Thacker, 67, was a member of the storied crew who shaped the future of computing with a series of hardware, software and networking advances at Xerox PARC during the 1970s. The others included Butler Lampson, Alan Kay, Robert Metcalfe and Charles Simonyi.”

“Mr. Thacker was the lead designer of the Alto, the prototype of the modern PC, with the technology for modern graphics, pick-and-click icons to guide users, multiple on-screen windows and desktop publishing,” Lohr reports. “Apple first brought these technologies to the commercial mainstream, and later Microsoft used them.”

MacDailyNews Take: …poorly.

Lohr continues, “After Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), Mr. Thacker became a researcher at Digital Equipment’s lab in Silicon Valley and he joined Microsoft Research in 1997. At Microsoft, he led the design team that built the prototypes for Tablet PCs.”

MacDailyNews Take: Whoops. Genius goes to Microsoft, immediately loses his touch. That place would suck the life out of anybody. The bubbly Rachael Ray could go to work at the Microsoft commissary and, within a week, she’d be sullenly doling out scoops of mashed potatoes while glancing longingly at the nearest window ledge.

Lohr continues, “[Thacker’s] Alto vision was fully realized by Apple’s Macintosh. And today, there is a chance Apple will once again create a hit in a field Mr. Thacker tilled first, as Apple brings its much-anticipated tablet, the iPad, to market next month. Mr. Thacker is reserving judgement on the iPad and its prospects. ‘I haven’t seen one yet, so my opinion would have no value,’ he said.”

MacDailyNews Take: Fair enough. Let’s check with his fellow PARC veteran, Alan Kay, then: Legendary designer Alan Kay says Apple iPad will rule the world – February 22, 2010. And there you go.

Lohr continues, “The Tablet PC, he admits, has lagged behind so far. ‘It didn’t go as well as we had hoped,’ Mr. Thacker said.”

MacDailyNews Take: You don’t say? Don’t worry, the cavalry’s here now.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Going from PARC to Microsoft is like going from BMW to GM. Shudder. Despite that, congratulations to Mr. Thacker on receiving The Turing Award for his amazing work!


  1. Describing an award as “the Nobel prize of” doesn’t have the same cachet it once did.

    Might even be deemed derogatory.

    Lohr needs to update his analogy. Even “The Academy Award of computer science” would work better.

  2. “The Nobel prize of computer science?”

    Give us a break.

    Thacker got the Turing Award for actually achieving things, not due to misplaced hope from a bunch of privileged Swedish libs bent on turning what was once a prestigious award into a joke.

    No surprise that this analogy comes from a disconnected The New York Times writer. So typical.

  3. “The bubbly Rachael Ray could go to work at the Microsoft commissary and, within a week, she’d be sullenly doling out scoops of mashed potatoes while glancing longingly at the nearest window ledge.”

    LMAO! That made my morning.

  4. what apple did was take the xerox “solutions” for the corporate elite and put it in the hands of the common folk. a xerox system, if they existed today would cost more than a mac. give credit where it is due. the folks at PARC created an elegant solution compared to the technology available at the time. apple commercialized it when xerox only had desires to sell high priced industrial equipment to corporations. looking back now, what PARC did was truly revolutionary. kind of the newton of its time. the difference with the apple story is they are not going to let someone else capitalize on the ideas of the newton. they will. bravo.

  5. There’s that BMW to GM comparison again. . . . You really need to update your material. For nearly a decade American cars have been judged superior to any European cars for engineering, mechanical reliability, and especially dollar value. . . . And now, it seems, perhaps the Asian cars are coming into question, as well.

    And this award sounds more like a Lifetime Achievement Award, which I would expect few people would debate.

  6. AppleJack has obviously never driven a BMW.

    They go around corners at speeds that would cause any piece of GM junk to flip right over, killing everyone inside.

    Plus, BMWs are beautiful and don’t look like they were designed by tasteless, uneducated, and non-artistic hacks.

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