Gary Kildall, 1942-1994

As a student at the University of Washington, Gary Kildall received three degrees: a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics in 1967, a Master's degree in Computer Science in 1968, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1972. He was hired as an assistant professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, and later joined Intel Corporation to write programming tools for the Intel 4004 microprocesor.

A pioneer in the computer revolution, Gary developed CP/M, which became the dominant microcomputer operating system of the 1970s. He was one of the first people to recognize that even the early, simple microprocessors could support a complete minicomputer-style operating system, and he created an editor, assembler, linker, and loader, along with the first file system to use floppy disks as a general-purpose storage medium. As personal computers began to be used, he saw that their true potential would be in connectivity, so he developed extensions to CP/M that let computers share files and peripheral devices over a network.

Gary's company, Digital Research, Inc., introduced operating systems with windowing capability, preemptive multitasking, and menu-driven user interfaces years before Microsoft developed Windows. He also created the first practical open-system architecture, which allowed operating systems and application programs to be independent of the specific machines on which they ran. A firm believer that life and work should be fun, Gary also developed an early computer-based arcade game as well as precursors to current interactive multimedia.

Gary passed away in 1994, at the age of 52. His daughter Kristin established the Gary Kildall Endowed Scholarship in his honor in 1997, and it has been awarded every year since that time to outstanding UW CSE undergraduate students.

Recognition of Gary's extraordinary accomplishments has increased recently with his inclusion in the wonderful 2004 book and PBS television series They Made America -- brief excerpt from the detailed Kildall chapter here, Parade magazine excerpt here. Previous tributes here, here, here, here, and here.

The award will be based on academic merit only. Currently the endowment generates two awards in the amount of $2,500.


This scholarship is available only to students currently enrolled as Computer Science or Computer Engineering majors at the University of Washington.