Edward Fredkin is recognized worldwide as one of the foremost authorities and developers of the field of artificial intelligence (AI). He is now Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (West) and has kindly agreed to serve as moderator of the PDP-1 panel.
At age 19, Fredkin left college (Caltech) to join the U.S. Air Force and became a fighter pilot. Fredkin’s computer career started in 1956 when the air force assigned him to work at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. On completing his service, Fredkin joined contract research firm Bolt, Beranek & Newman (BBN) in the early 1960s where he wrote a PDP-1 assembler (FRAP) and participated in early projects using the PDP-1 computer. Fredkin founded his first company, Information International, Incorporated (III) in 1961.
After leading III to become a well-established public company, Fredkin returned to academia in 1968, starting at MIT as a full professor (in electrical engineering) where, from 1971 to 1974, he was director of the innovative research program in operating systems, timesharing, and artificial intelligence known as Project MAC.
Fredkin then spent a year at Caltech as a Fairchild Distinguished Scholar, working with Richard Feynman, and was a Professor of Physics at Boston University for six years.
Fredkin has always been broadly interested in both hardware and software aspects of computation. He is the inventor of many things including the Trie data structure, the Fredkin Gate and the Billiard Ball Model for reversible computing. He has also been involved in computer vision, chess and other areas of artificial intelligence research.
Fredkin’s five decade career in computer science, and his early use of the DEC PDP-1 computer, make him uniquely placed to examine and assess this machine and its users in perspective.