C. Gordon Bell

Researcher Emeritus, Microsoft and 2003 CHM Fellow

For his key role in the minicomputer revolution, and for contributions as a computer architect and entrepreneur

"Every big computing disaster comes from taking too many ideas and putting them in one place."

— C. Gordon Bell

Gordon Bell was a Researcher Emeritus at Microsoft who worked on lifelogging. He spent 23 years at Digital Equipment Corporation as vice president of R&D; while there, he was responsible for the first mini- and timesharing computers and led the development of DEC's highly-successful VAX architecture. From 1966-1972 he was a professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University. With Ken Olsen, DEC CEO, and Gwen Bell, he founded the Digital Computer Museum in Marlborough, MA (1979); becoming The Computer Museum, Boston, MA (1984); and The Computer Museum History Center, Mountain View, CA (1999, prior to the Computer History Museum (2000).

Bell was involved in designing many products at Digital, and startup companies, and has been an investor/advisor/board member to over 100 startups. As the first assistant director for computing at the National Science Foundation (NSF), he led the National Research Network panel that became the NII/GII, and was an author of the High Performance Computer and Communications Initiative. He posited Bell's Law of Computer Classes (1972-2008) accounting for the new kinds of computers (e.g. mainframes, personal computers, etc.) that come into existence roughly every decade.

Bell was also the author of several books and papers on computing, entrepreneurship, and lifelogging. He was a fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery, IEEE, National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Australian Technological Sciences and Engineering. In 1991, Bell received the National Medal of Technology from President George H.W. Bush. He passed away on May 17, 2024.


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