July 12, 2019, Fernando Corbató, nicknamed “Corby,” passed away at the age of 93. Corby was a pioneer in computer technology. Having developed a computer time-sharing system, his Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) paved the way for modern computing to be what it is today. From allowing multiple people to use a computer at the same time, to having induvial user accounts protected by passwords, CTSS inspired further developments into some modern operating systems, such as Linux.
He was known to be an influential person in many lives and his work paved the way for future work. One of his peer’s states “…what he brought to the table was the vision and persistence to get it [computer time-sharing] done.” Another goes on to say, “It’s no overstatement to say that Corby’s work on time-sharing fundamentally transformed computers as we know them today.” One additional legacy of Corby’s is “Corbató’s Law,” in which he stated that one can write the same number of lines of code in one day regardless which language is used.
Corby seemed to be involved with just about anything and everything technologically! From being an active member of the MIT community to holding membership within the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and even the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Corby was all in. In fact, in 1990 he was awarded the Association of Computing Machinery’s Turing Award!
To me, personally, Fernando is someone I would consider looking up to for intellectual aspirations. His devotedness to work and study literally helped shape the technological world that we know of today. Thank you, Corby, for setting the stage of privacy and security, and allowing computers to be what they are today!
Dale Goodno says
Excellent article. Thank you. So many people put so much energy into admiring our star athletes, actors, and musicians. I admire them as well; but the world we live in has been drastically improved by so many unsung scientists and engineers. We receive so much benefit medically, financially, even through entertainment thanks to people like Corby.
Emil Hozan says
Thank you for the comment and thank you for reading and engaging with this post!
I couldn’t agree with you more! Some find passion in doing what they do even if it’s “behind the scenes” so to speak, Corby being one of them. Having learned about him and what he’s done for the computing world, I wouldn’t have felt right not writing something in his honor. Him and others alike do what they do for the passion that they have, maybe some want fame and glory but I can’t think of any “main stream” folks that aren’t actors or athletes – maybe I just don’t watch enough TV or news?
Thank you for recognizing this and not forgetting the folks that were fundamental in the advancement of technology.