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A Talk With Charles Simonyi

Charles Simonyi Photo

Introduction by
John Brockman

During the 1970s at Xerox PARC, Charles Simonyi led a team of programmers in the development of Bravo, the first WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) word-processing editor. Bravo was a fundamental departure from the way information was previously displayed and organized and it was part of PARC's contribution that changed the face of computing and ultimately led to personal computing.

Simonyi, born in Budapest, Hungary, holds a bachelor of science degree in engineering mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley and a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University. He worked for the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center from 1972-80 and joined Microsoft in 1981 to start the development of microcomputer application programs. He hired and managed teams who developed Microsoft Multiplan, Word, Excel, and other applications. In 1991, he moved to Microsoft Research where he has been focusing on Intentional Programming. He is generally thought of as one of the most talented programmers at Microsoft.

Dr. Simonyi, whose long career has made him independently wealthy, has endowed two chairs: the Charles Simonyi Professorship For The Understanding Of Science at Oxford University which is held by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins; and the Charles Simonyi Professorship in Theoretical Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study.

John Markoff, writing in The New York Times (12 Nov 1990), relates the following anecdote: "He enjoys taking visitors to the machine shop in the basement of his new home, complete with lathe and drill press. 'In Hungary,' he said, 'they told us that the workers would never own the means of production.'"

Charles Simonyi is "The WYSIWYG."


Charles Simonyi talks with John Brockman...