Gordon Bell typing on the keyboard of a computer the size of a refrigerator.

Gordon Bell, pictured here in the 1960s, helped develop small, general purpose computers programmed to do specific jobs, such as controlling the news display in New York’s Times Square. Bell is up first in a new History of Computing Speaker Series at SJSU (photo courtesy of the Computer History Museum).

The recent news about Steve Jobs stepping down as CEO of Apple reminds us all of the tremendous impact the leading computing pioneers have on our daily lives. His technological vision and the geniuses he employed at Apple have changed the way we work with computers and use telephones, and how we can download and listen to music. Jobs has created a new tablet computer industry unlike anything we’ve seen before.

The History of Computing Speaker Series, sponsored by IBM and jointly coordinated by the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Computer Engineering, brings to SJSU a stellar group of computer pioneers to speak about their past and current achievements. Students can learn the lessons of how architects and designers overcame the technological, economic, and societal constraints of their day, and thereby making students better architects and designers in the present day. These talks are open to the public.

The speakers include such computing luminaries as Don Knuth, James Gosling, Allan Alcorn, Don Chamberlin, and Alan Kay. Gordon Bell will start the series from 6-7 p.m. Aug. 31 in the Engineering Auditorium (ENG 189). View current schedule, abstracts, and speaker bios.

Adjunct Professor Ron Mak is arranging these speakers in conjunction with his History of Computing class for undergraduate and graduate students. His students work on research projects related to computing history. Some of the speakers and many other computing pioneers inside and outside of Silicon Valley are generously donating their time and expertise to serve as project advisers.

Mak’s “day job” is working as a research staff member at the IBM Almaden Research Center, where he is helping to design and develop SPLASH, a platform for integrating heterogeneous simulation models and data sets in order to solve complex problems such as obesity.

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