The Computer History Museum (CHM) released today excerpts from the unpublished memoirs of personal computer software pioneer Gary Kildall. Written in the months before his death in 1994, Kildall's work chronicles his childhood in Seattle, Washington, his development of the groundbreaking CP/M personal-computer operating system and the founding of Digital Research Inc. (DRI), an early software success that sold and marketed CP/M. Ownership of the unfinished manuscript passed to Gary's children, Kristin and Scott Kildall. With their permission, the Museum is publishing Kildall's recollections on the @CHM blog.
”Gary's influence on the nascent personal computer industry was profound,” said Len Shustek, Museum chairman of the board of trustees. “We are pleased that his family is working with us to share his story with the public for the first time.”
Kildall began writing his memoirs to explain the early days of the personal computing era to his close friends and family. His writing style is plain and unvarnished, covering the technologies and people of his time, and offering unique insights into the many underlying activities behind successful computer systems and software technologies of the early microcomputer era. Kildall is best known for creating the CP/M operating system, from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, the industry standard method of supporting Intel 8080-based computer systems with attached disk drives. CP/M was important in its own right but also as a strong influence on the eventual development of DOS from Microsoft. In fact, it was unclear at the time which company – Kildall's Digital Research or Microsoft – would win the contest for the dominant PC operating system of the 1980s and thereby control the desktops of eventually hundreds of millions of users.
”Our father was one of the founders of the personal computer industry, but you probably don't know his name,” said Kristin and Scott Kildall. “Those who have heard of him may recall the myth that he 'missed' the opportunity to become Bill Gates by going flying instead of meeting with IBM. Unfortunately, this tall tale paints Gary as a 'could-have-been,' ignores his deep contributions, and overshadows his role as an inventor of key technologies that define how computer platforms run today. We offer this portion of our father's unpublished memoirs so that you can read about his experiences and reflections on the early days of the computer industry, directly in his own voice.”
For download options and more information please visit the @CHM Blog post.
As a consultant to Intel Corporation, Kildall wrote key programming language tools that supported the company's introduction of microprocessor chips in 1971. According Brian Halla, Intel's liaison with DRI at the time and later CEO of National Semiconductor, “Gary wasn't just a visionary and a dreamer. He was a doer. Gary Kildall is the unsung hero of computer software and innovation in Silicon Valley. We all owe a lot to Gary.”
The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, is a nonprofit organization with a four-decade history as the world's leading institution exploring the history of computing and its ongoing impact on society. The Museum is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of computer history and is home to the largest international collection of computing artifacts in the world, encompassing computer hardware, software, documentation, ephemera, photographs, and moving images.
The Museum brings computer history to life through large-scale exhibits, an acclaimed speaker series, a dynamic website, docent-led tours, and an award-winning education program. The Museum's signature exhibition is “Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing,” described by USA Today as “the Valley's answer to the Smithsonian.” Other current exhibits include the “IBM 1401 Demo Lab,” “PDP-1 Demo Lab,” and “Where To? A History of Autonomous Vehicles.”
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