most significant bits
newsletter of uw computer science & engineering
volume 19, number 2, winter 2010
university of washington
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About MSB

MSB is a twice yearly publication of UW CSE supported by the Industrial Affiliates Program.

Editor: Kay Beck-Benton
Contributors: Ed Lazowska, Hank Levy, Sandy Marvinney
Photo credits: Bruce Hemingway, Rod Prieto

We Want to Hear from You!

Do you have news you’d like to share with the CSE community? Comments or suggestions for future issues of MSB? Let us know! Email the editors at and be sure to visit us online at:

From Where I Sit...

Hank Levy

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe that it’s 2010. How did that happen? It seems like not long ago we were ushering in the new century and worrying about whether computers worldwide would crash.

It’s impressive how far our field has come over the last decade, and how closely computing is integrated, in an increasingly seamless way, into people’s lives. Our kids take all of this for granted: that they can connect with their friends on Facebook, that they can answer every question with Web search, that they can stream TV shows over the Internet, that they can shoot a video with their cell phone and publish it on YouTube, and that they can text their parents that they left their lunch at home. We forget that this world did not exist a decade ago, and that it’s all been made possible (for better or worse!) by the capabilities our field has enabled. We’re all lucky to be part of this, and for those of us “of a certain age,” we’re lucky to have witnessed the remarkable advance of computing technology, almost from its infancy. For me, it’s been amazing to experience the move from punched cards to teletypes to CRTs to today’s huge LCD monitors and touch-screen web-connected mobile phones.

It’s been a crazy ride, and it’s worth sitting back and thinking about what we’ve achieved and what we hope to achieve in the future. One exciting change that’s reflected by a number of research efforts in our department is the focus on using computers and technology to improve people’s lives in very direct ways. For example, many of our students have spent time in Africa, India, or South America looking at how technology can empower people in developing countries. There are efforts to create computing tools to help those with hearing or visual impairments. There is work to advance robotic prosthetics and to provide brain-computer interfaces for people with physical disabilities. There is research that will help reduce energy consumption and make our cities and transportation systems more effective. And there are many other similar efforts in CSE. In the future, I expect (and hope) to see more projects like this — because this type of research is helping to excite and draw the next generation of students to our field.

Again, I wish you a Happy New Year and hope to see or hear from many of you in 2010.

Hank Levy signature
Henry M. Levy
Chairman and Wissner-Slivka Chair
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