The ACM has named Charles Thacker the recipient of the 2009 ACM A.M. Turing Award for his pioneering design and realization of the Alto, the first modern PC, and the prototype for networked Pcs which Thacker designed while at Xerox PARC. Thacker, who currently is a Technical Fellow at Microsoft Research, was also cited for his contributions to the Ethernet local area network, the first multiprocessor workstation, and the prototype for today's tablet PC. The Turing Award, widely considered the "Nobel Prize in Computing", carries a $250,000 prize, with financial support by Intel and Google.
Thacker created and collaborated on what would become the fundamental building blocks of the PC business. The Alto computer, developed in 1974, incorporated bitmap displays which enable modern GUIs, including WYSIWYG editors. These components have dominated computing during the last two decades. Thacker was the co-inventor of the Ethernet local area network, introduced in 1973. Today's Ethernets, which are thousands of times faster than the original version, have become the dominant local area networking technology.
At Digital Equipment's System Research Center, Thacker designed the Firefly multiprocessor workstation, an innovation that has new relevance in the current multicore world. These systems are widely used across many domains for their ability to improve productivity and create performance advantages, with applications for embedded architecture, network systems, DSP, graphics, and special effects.
Thacker moved to Microsoft Research in 1997 to help establish its Microsoft Research Cambridge lab, where he also oversaw the design of the first prototypes on which most of today's tablet PCs are based. After joining the Tablet PC team to help shepherd the product to market, he returned to Microsoft Research in 2005, and is currently engaged in computer architecture research at Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus.
Thacker has published extensively and holds 29 patents in computer systems and networking. He is a Distinguished Alumnus of the Computer Science Department of the University of California Berkeley, where he earned a B.S. in physics. He holds an honorary doctorate from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and is a Fellow of ACM and the Computer History Museum. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.
For the development of Alto, Thacker (with Butler Lampson and Robert Taylor) received the 1984 ACM Software System Award. In 2004, (with Lampson, Taylor, and Alan Kay) he was awarded the Charles Stark Draper prize for the development of the first networked personal computers. In 2007, he was the recipient of IEEE's John von Neumann medal.