David Cutler

2016 Fellow

For his fundamental contributions to computer architecture, compilers, operating systems and software engineering.

"When all is said and done, much more is said than done."

— David Cutler

David N. Cutler was born in Lansing, Michigan, in 1942. He earned an academic and athletic scholarship to Olivet College and graduated in 1965 with bachelor's degrees in mathematics and physics. In 2011 Cutler was awarded an honorary doctorate from Olivet College.

Cutler began programming real-time process control systems at DuPont that established his lifelong interest and career in software and operating systems. In 1971 he joined Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in Maynard, Massachusetts, to develop a real-time operating system, RSX-11/M for the PDP-11 minicomputer. As a member of DEC's six-person VAX architecture team, Cutler went on to lead the development and implementation of the VMS operating system. After the VMS release, he led a small team to produce PL/1 and C compilers and a common run-time system to learn about compilers. In 1981 Cutler founded a DEC engineering lab in Seattle, Washington, to produce a small embedded real-time operating system for embedded chip-based VAX systems. The lab also developed the MicroVax I, the first VAX microprocessor computer.

In 1988 Cutler joined Microsoft to lead the development of a portable operating system for personal computers that could run on many different computer architectures. This became known as Windows NT, the basis for all major Windows-based operating systems since 1993 (including the AMD 64-bit extensions to the Intel x86 collaboration) and the mainstay of Microsoft's subsequent Windows systems. In 2006 Cutler joined the Microsoft Azure group to produce a cloud computing platform based on visualization and hypervisor control. Using similar technology Cutler joined the Xbox group to produce a new Xbox One gaming console.

Over Cutler's 45-year career, he has occupied the highest technical positions at DEC and Microsoft, producing over eight commercially successful systems. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and was awarded the US National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2007 for designing and implementing the “industry standard” systems for real-time, personal, and server-based systems.

David lives in Medina, Washington, with his partner of 36 years, Deborah Girdler. He is an avid cyclist and enjoys golfing and skiing. On weekends he can often be found at Microsoft, writing code for the next critical current project or his own pet project.


Oral History of David Cutler, interviewed by Grant Saviers, February 25, 2016, CHM


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