TOCS Event-Silicon Valley Campus - Carnegie Mellon University

TOCS Event

Chuck Thacker


Chuck Thacker

Microsoft Research Silicon Valley


2004 Charles Stark Draper Prize Winner

2010 ACM Alan Turing Award Winner

Designed and built the ALTO, the first distributed personal computing system; and the ETHERNET, the most successful local area network.


April 30, 1:30 pm



CMUSV, Rm 118 [directions]

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Title: The Xerox Alto Architecture

Forty years ago, a group at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center designed and built the first distributed personal computing system. The computer was the Alto, which laid the foundations for today's personal computers. The network that connected a number of Altos into a distributed system was Ethernet.

In this talk, I will describe the architecture of the Alto, as well as some of the software that was written for it. Many of the challenges we faced four decades ago still exist today, and examining some of them may be instructive for today's computer architects. 


Speaker Bio:

Chuck Thacker has spent forty years in several industrial research labs. He received a BA in physics from U.C. Berkeley in 1967.  He joined Xerox PARC in 1970, where he was responsible for the hardware of a number of innovative systems, including the Alto, the first networked personal computer, and the Ethernet, which is still the most successful local area network.  In 1983, he joined the DEC Systems Research Center, where he was responsible for a number of networking and computing systems, including the AN1 and AN2 networks and the Firefly multiprocessor.

He joined Microsoft in 1997 to help establish the company's Cambridge, England laboratory. After returning to the U.S. in 1999, he joined the newly-formed Tablet PC group and managed the design of the first prototypes of this new device. He has also worked on low-cost computing devices for elementary education, and is currently working in Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, where he leads a Computer Architecture group.

Chuck has published extensively, and holds a number of U.S patents in computer systems and networking. In 1984, he was awarded (B. Lampson and R. Taylor) the ACM's Software Systems Award for the development of the Alto. He is a Distinguished Alumnus of the Computer Science Department of the University of California, and holds an Honorary Doctorate from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). He is a member of the IEEE, a fellow of the ACM, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, which in 2004 awarded him, (with A. Kay, B Lampson, and R. Taylor) the Charles Stark Draper prize. In 2007, he received the IEEE John Von Neumann medal, and in 2010, he received the ACM Alan Turing Award.