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Dijkstra: Philips and I – a few snapshots (2001) [pdf] (utexas.edu)
16 points by tomrod 21 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 4 comments

The eminent researchers in Distributed Systems are so interesting. I find Edsger Dijkstra and Leslie Lamport to be very colorful and inspiring characters.

Edsger Dijkstra was a pioneer in computing. Yet he lived like a luddite. He did not own a television or go to the movies and did not even own a personal computer until much later in his career! He enjoyed playing the piano and left behind a large amount of papers and documentation - both personal and technical.

Leslie Lamport wrote one seminal paper after another in the field of distributed computing and concurrency. He co-created LaTex and the Paxos algorithm. He then rigorously defined the temporal logic of actions (TLA) which is a mathematically correct basis for a checking a program's behaviour/models at a high level. I took his TLA+ web course recently. The presentation of the course is fantastic. His mirthful yet sincere attitude really shines through in it.

Are there any pioneering researchers who you find fascinating?

Thanks for pointing out TLA!

Hawking was great, and wrote a fantastic book called "God Invented the Integers" where he details fascinating seminal math contributions.

I'm a geek for Horn and Johnson of Matrix Analysis fame.

Munkres topology has been bedtime reading for a long time.

Quite a few philosophers strike my fancy, especially the existential school.

The history of Philips' computer divisions through the years is interesting and rather obscure. After building mainframes in the 60ies (P1000) they went on to develop minis such as the P800 and P4000 in the 70ies/80ies. As far as I know this was both developed and marketed mainly in Europe, the P800 for industrial control and P4000 as an office computer. This was very proprietary stuff (both hardware and software) and details are sadly hard to find online these days. Later, Philips abandoned their home-grown efforts and went on to produce PC clones, although I believe there was also something Unix-based (P9000?).

> ... I was introduced to the people who built computers at Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven. It was a type of people I did not know, I found them very strange and they did not inspire confidence at all. Later I learned that I had been introduced to electronic engineers.

Brilliant. I'll be sure to share this with my electronic-engineer colleagues on the High Tech Campus (the former Philips Research campus) here in Eindhoven. :)

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