Gary Kildall

Gary Kildall

Infobox Person
name = Gary Kildall

image_size = 200px
caption =
birth_date = birth date|1942|5|19|mf=y
birth_place = Seattle, Washington
death_date = death date and age|mf=yes|1994|7|11|1942|5|19
death_place = Monterey, California
occupation = Computer scientist
spouse = Dorothy McEwen Kildall Karen Kildall

Gary Arlen Kildall (May 19, 1942 – July 11, 1994) was an American computer scientist and microcomputer entrepreneur who created the CP/M operating system and founded Digital Research, Inc. (DRI). Kildall was one of the first people to see microprocessors as fully capable computers rather than equipment controllers and to organize a company around this concept.cite episode
title=Special Edition: Gary Kildall
series=The Computer Chronicles
serieslink=Computer Chronicles
[] ] He also co-hosted the PBS TV show "The Computer Chronicles". Although his career in computing spanned more than two decades, he is mainly remembered in connection with IBM's unsuccessful attempt in 1980 to license CP/M for the IBM PC.

Early life

Gary Kildall was born and grew up in Seattle, Washington, where his family operated a seafaring school. Gary attended the University of Washington hoping to become a mathematics teacher, but became increasingly interested in computer technology. After receiving his degree, he fulfilled a draft obligation to the United States Navy by teaching at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.cite journal
title=Gary Kildall and Collegial Entrepreneurship
journal=Dr. Dobb's Journal
] Being within a few hours' drive of Silicon Valley, Kildall heard about the first commercially available microprocessor, the Intel 4004. He bought one of the processors and began writing experimental programs for it. To learn more about the processors, he went to work at Intel as a consultant on his days off.

Kildall briefly returned to UW and finished his doctorate in computer science in 1972, then resumed teaching at NPS. He published a paper that introduced the theory of data-flow analysis used today in optimizing compilers, [cite journal
title=A Unified Approach to Global Program Optimization
journal=Proceedings of the 1st Annual ACM SIGACT-SIGPLAN Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages
] and he continued to experiment with microcomputers and the emerging technology of floppy disks. Intel lent him systems using the 8008 and 8080 processors, and in 1973 he developed the first high-level programming language for microprocessors, called PL/M. He created CP/M the same year to enable the 8080 to control a floppy drive, combining for the first time all the essential components of a computer at the microcomputer scale. He demonstrated CP/M to Intel, but Intel had little interest and chose to market PL/M instead.

Business career


Kildall and his wife Dorothy established a company, originally called "Intergalactic Digital Research" (later renamed as Digital Research, Inc.), to market CP/M through advertisements in hobbyist magazines. Digital Research licensed CP/M for the IMSAI 8080, a popular clone of the Altair 8800. As more manufacturers licensed CP/M, it became a de facto standard and had to support an increasing number of hardware variations. In response Kildall pioneered the concept of a BIOS, a set of simple programs stored in the computer hardware that enabled CP/M to run on different systems without modification.

CP/M's quick success took Kildall by surprise, and he was slow to update it for high density floppy disks and hard disks. After hardware manufacturers talked about creating a rival operating system, Kildall started a rush project to develop CP/M 2.cite web
title=Interview: Gordon Eubanks, Former Student & CEO of Oblix, Inc.
work=Recollections of Gary Kildall
] By 1981, at the peak of its popularity, CP/M ran on 3000 different computer models and DRI had $5.4 million in yearly revenues.

IBM dealings

IBM approached Digital Research in 1980, at Bill Gates' suggestion, to license a forthcoming version of CP/M called CP/M-86 for the IBM PC. Gary left licensing negotiations to Dorothy, as he usually did, while he and colleague Tom Rolander used Gary's private airplane to deliver software to manufacturer Bill Godbout.cite book
coauthors=Jim Erickson
title=Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire
id=ISBN 0-88730-629-2
] Before the IBM representatives could explain the purpose of their visit, they insisted that DRI accept a standard non-disclosure agreement that required it not to reveal anything about the meeting and allowed IBM unfettered use of any information that DRI might disclose. On the advice of DRI attorney Gerry Davis, Dorothy refused to sign the agreement without Gary's approval. Gary returned in the afternoon and signed the agreement so negotiations could go forward, but accounts disagree about whether he personally met with the IBM representatives or was merely at DRI while the negotiations were in progress.cite book
coauthors=Michael Swaine
title=Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer|origyear=1984
edition=2nd edition
location=New York
id=ISBN 0-07-135892-7

Various reasons have been given for the two companies failing to reach an agreement. DRI, which had only a few products, might have been unwilling to license its main product to IBM for a one-time payment rather than its usual royalty-based plan. Dorothy might have believed that the company could not deliver CP/M-86 on IBM's proposed schedule, as the company was busy developing an implementation of the PL/I programming language for Data General.cite book
coauthors=Gail Buckland; David Lefer
title=They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine: Two Centuries of Innovators
publisher=Little, Brown and Co
id=ISBN 0-316-27766-5
] Or, the IBM representatives might have been annoyed that DRI had spent hours on what they considered a routine formality. According to Kildall, the IBM representatives took the same flight to Florida that night that he and Dorothy took for their vacation, and they negotiated further on the flight, reaching a handshake agreement. IBM lead negotiator Jack Sams insisted that he never met Gary, and an IBM colleague recalled that he said so at the time. He accepted that someone else in his group might have been on the same flight, but noted that he flew back to Seattle to talk with Microsoft again.

Sams related the story to Gates, who had already agreed to provide a BASIC interpreter and several other programs for the PC. Gates's impression of the story was that Gary capriciously "went flying," as he would later tell reporters. [cite book
coauthors=Paul Andrews
title=Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry—and Made Himself the Richest Man in America
id=ISBN 0671880748
] Sams left Gates with the task of finding a usable operating system, and a few weeks later he proposed using the CP/M clone 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products (SCP). Paul Allen negotiated a licensing deal with SCP, had 86-DOS adapted for IBM's hardware, and IBM shipped it as PC-DOS.

Kildall obtained a copy of PC-DOS, examined it, and concluded that it infringed on CP/M. When he asked Gerry Davis what legal options were available, Davis told him that intellectual property law for software was not clear enough to sue. (According to Davis, the law later developed in what might have been DRI's favor.)cite journal
coauthors=Jay Greene
title=The Man Who Could Have Been Bill Gates
date=October 25, 2004
] Instead Kildall only threatened IBM with legal action, and IBM responded with a proposal to offer CP/M-86 as an option for the PC in return for a release of liability. [cite interview
first=Gordon | last=Eubanks
interviewer=Daniel S. Morrow |date=November 8, 2000 |city=Cupertino, CA
title=Gordon Eubanks Oral History (Computerworld Honors Program International Archives)
] Kildall accepted, believing that IBM's new system (like its previous personal computers) would not be a significant commercial success.cite interview
interviewer=Robert Scoble
title=Scoble Show
] When the IBM PC was introduced, IBM sold its operating system as an unbundled (but necessary) option. One of the operating system options was PC-DOS, priced at US$40. CP/M-86 shipped a few months later at $240, but sold poorly against DOS.

Later work

With the loss of the IBM deal, Gary and Dorothy found themselves under pressure to bring in more experienced management, and Gary's influence over the company waned. He worked in various experimental and research projects, such as a version of CP/M with multitasking and an implementation of the Logo programming language. He hoped that Logo, an educational dialect of LISP, would supplant BASIC in education, but it did not.cite web
date=July 15, 1994
work=Tom Rolander's Website and Album
] After seeing a demonstration of the Apple Lisa, Kildall oversaw the creation of DRI's own graphical user interface, called Graphical Environment Manager (GEM) Desktop. Novell acquired DRI in 1991 in a deal that netted millions for Kildall.

Kildall also pursued computing-related projects outside DRI. In 1983 he started hosting a public television program on the side, called "Computer Chronicles", that followed trends in personal computing. He started another company, KnowledgeSet, that adapted optical disk technology for computer use. In 1985 it released the first computer encyclopedia, Grolier's "Academic American Encyclopedia". Kildall's final business venture, known as Prometheus Light and Sound and based in Austin, Texas, developed a home PBX system that integrated land-line telephones with mobile phones.

Personal life

Kildall's colleagues recall him as creative, easygoing, and adventurous. In addition to flying, he loved sports cars, auto racing, and boating, and he had a lifelong love of the sea.

Although Kildall preferred to leave the IBM affair in the past and to be known for his work before and afterward, he continually faced comparisons between himself and Bill Gates as well as fading memories of his contributions. A legend grew around the fateful IBM-DRI meeting (encouraged by Gates and various journalists), suggesting that Kildall had irresponsibly taken the day off for a recreational flight, and he tired of constantly having to refute that story. In later years, he had occasional private expressions of bitterness over being upstaged by Microsoft.

Kildall was particularly annoyed when the University of Washington asked him, as a distinguished graduate, to attend their computer science program anniversary in 1992, but gave the keynote speech to college dropout Gates. In response he started writing his memoir, "Computer Connections". The memoir, which he distributed only to a few friends, expressed his frustration that people did not seem to value elegance in software, and it said of Gates, "He is divisive. He is manipulative. He is a user. He has taken much from me and the industry." In an appendix he called DOS "plain and simple theft" because its first 26 system calls worked the same as CP/M's.cite news
last=Andrews | first=Paul | date=July 14, 1994
title=A Career Spent in Gates' Shadow—Computer Pioneer Dies at 52
work=Seattle Times
Harold Evans used the memoir as a source for a chapter about Kildall in the 2004 book "They Made America", concluding that Microsoft had robbed Kildall of his inventions. IBM veterans from the PC project disputed the book's description of events, and Microsoft described it as "one-sided and inaccurate."

Selling DRI to Novell had made Kildall a wealthy man, and he moved to the West Lake Hills suburb of Austin. His Austin house was a lakeside property, with stalls for several sports cars, plus a video studio in the basement. Kildall owned and flew his own Lear jet and had at least one boat on the lake. While in Austin he also participated in volunteer efforts to assist children with AIDS. In California, he owned a mansion with a panoramic ocean view in Pebble Beach.


On July 8, 1994, Kildall fell at a Monterey, California restaurant. The circumstances of the fall remain unclear, with various sources claiming he fell from a chair, fell down steps, or was assaulted. He checked in and out of the hospital twice, and died three days later at the Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula. The coroner's report identified the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head. There was also evidence that he had experienced a heart attack, but an autopsy did not conclusively determine the cause of death. [cite news
date=July 13, 1994
title=Gary Kildall, 52, Crucial Player In Computer Development, Dies
work=New York Times
] [cite web
title=comp.os.cpm Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
] He was buried in Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery in North Seattle.


In March 1995, Kildall was posthumously honored by the Software Publishers Association (now the Software and Information Industry Association) for his contributions to the microcomputer industry:

* Introduction of operating systems with preemptive multitasking and windowing capabilities and menu-driven user interfaces.
* Creation of the first diskette track buffering schemes, read-ahead algorithms, file directory caches, and RAM disk emulators.
* Introduction of a binary recompiler in the 1980s.
* The first programming language and first compiler specifically for microprocessors.
* The first microprocessor disk operating system, which eventually sold a quarter of a million copies.
* The first computer interface for video disks to allow automatic nonlinear playback, presaging today's interactive multimedia.
* The file system and data structures for the first consumer CD-ROM.
* The first successful open system architecture by segregating system-specific hardware interfaces in a set of BIOS routines.

At the time of Kildall's death, Bill Gates commented that he was "one of the original pioneers of the PC revolution" and "a very creative computer scientist who did excellent work."



List of reference documents (alphabetical by author):

* Akass, Clive. Interview: Gordon Eubanks, Former Student & CEO of Oblix, Inc., Recollections of Gary Kildall.
* Andrews, Paul. "A Career Spent in Gates' Shadow — Computer Pioneer Dies at 52", "Seattle Times", July 14, 1994.
* "Special Edition: Gary Kildall". "The Computer Chronicles" TV show, 1995.
* Eubanks, Gordon. Interview with Daniel S. Morrow. "Gordon Eubanks Oral History (Computerworld Honors Program International Archives).", Cupertino, CA. November 8, 2000.
* Evans, Harold; Gail Buckland; David Lefer (2004). "They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine: Two Centuries of Innovators". Little, Brown and Co. ISBN 0-316-27766-5.
* Freiberger, Paul; Michael Swaine [1984] (2000). "Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer", 2nd edition, New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-135892-7.
* Hamm, Steve; Jay Greene (October 25, 2004). "The Man Who Could Have Been Bill Gates," "BusinessWeek".
* Kildall, Gary (1973). "A Unified Approach to Global Program Optimization". "Proceedings of the 1st Annual ACM SIGACT-SIGPLAN Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages".
* Kirkpatrick, Don (January 12, 1999). comp.os.cpm Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).
* Manes, Stephen; Paul Andrews (1992). "Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry—and Made Himself the Richest Man in America" Doubleday. ISBN 0385420757.
* Markoff, John. "Gary Kildall, 52, Crucial Player In Computer Development, Dies", "New York Times", July 13, 1994, p. D19.
* Rolander, Tom (July 15, 1994). Eulogy. Tom Rolander's Website and Album.
* Swaine, Michael (April 1, 1997). "Gary Kildall and Collegial Entrepreneurship". "Dr. Dobb's Journal".
* Wallace, James; Jim Erickson (1993), "Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire", ISBN 0-88730-629-2.

External links

* [ Digital Research] tribute to Dr. Kildall
* [ "Kildall, Industry Pioneer"] in "Microprocessor Report" vol 8, no. 10, August 1, 1994 (pdf format)
* [ Internet archive] of defunct Digital Research website
* [ The Gary Kildall Legacy] by Sol Libes
* [ Computer Chronicles - Gary Kildall Special] . Originally broadcast in 1995.
* [ The man who could have been richer than Bill Gates]

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