In Memory of
GARY A. KILDALL
May 19, 1942 -- July 11, 1994
July 15, 1994
Naval Postgraduate School
On behalf of Kristin, Scott, and the Kildall family I
welcome you to this memorial service for Gary Kildall.
Today we will pay tribute to the accomplishments and life
of Gary Kildall.
Gary Kildall was a pioneer who brought
order into the early chaos of the PC
industry by providing focus, leadership
and vision. In a competitive, often
impersonal microcomputer industry,
Gary showed us that friends and business
associates are one and the same. His
family and friends will long remember him.
I must begin this talk by admitting to you that this is the
most difficult task that I have ever done in my life. I am an
enthusiastic high energy person usually operating at about
100 Mhz. Giving a eulogy is not something which fits very
well with my personality, or that I have been prepared to
do. It is, however, something I want to do with all my
Gary Kildall was the best male friend I have ever had in
my life. I trusted him implicitly, with my life and my
Let me tell you about the Gary I knew and loved as viewed
through my eyes and with my heart. I've often been
accused of being entirely too cheerful, even a "Pollyanna",
seeing only the good in people. This may tell you
something about being chosen as one of Gary's close
Gary was the biggest "kid" I've ever known. He had a
child-like enthusiasm which was obvious in his work and
recreation. A man with a multitude of toys from airplanes,
to cars, boats, motorcycles, and yes, computers too. I
couldn't express it better myself than on the front cover of
the first issue of Byte Magazine in September of 1975
which carried the headline,
"COMPUTERS- the World's Greatest Toy!"
Gary was on to something long before there was a
Nintendo or Sega. Creating programs is a lot of fun.
Gary was a man of many passions, he was warm and open
to those he loved, I shared many of his passions and I will
share some of them with you.
Gary had a wonderful way of calmly and patiently guiding
my enthusiasm, especially for computer technology and
flying. During the often frantic hours of preparation for a
tradeshow or a customer visit I would literally run in
circles from one task to another until I realized that Gary
was standing in the middle of that circle smiling at me,
waiting for me to notice him and then he would calmly
suggest that I take a deep breath and slow down. Gary
always had the confidence that the tasks would be
completed, and that gave me confidence in myself. We all
know what we can accomplish when we believe in
ourselves, and Gary taught me that confidence.
I have frequently heard it said that you can learn a lot about
a person by playing golf with them. Living here on the
Monterey peninsula and not being a golfer may be some
form of misdemeanor. But, Gary and I shared something
even better than golfing, we flew together. I believe that
you can learn even more about a person by flying with
them. I have been Gary's co-pilot for over 1,000 hours and
that is where I learned the most about him. He was
passionate about flying and loved the aircraft he flew.
As I wrote this eulogy I came to the realization that there
were a lot of parallels between the way Gary flew and the
way he programmed. The first parallel that came to mind
was his planning ahead before a flight. Gary was very
methodical before every trip, whether we were going out
for a brief bit of aerobatics in his Pitts biplane, or flying
across the country to Boston in the twin-engine Aerostar.
While my own personality would have prompted more
spontaneous departures, Gary's would always be done after
detailed weather briefings, fuel loading, and weight and
balance calculations. Gary's programming was just as
methodical. It always began with complete and detailed
sketches of data structures on large sheets of paper. The
coding never began until he had visualized and
comprehended the overall design.
The second parallel was the flight itself. From the preflight
to landing, Gary was a consumate professional in his
flying, paying attention to every detail and never getting
flustered. He was always calm, confident, and equally
demanding of detail from his co-pilot. He would have me
rehearse my ATC transmissions over and over so that I
would sound like a professional. After all, we were flying
up at 25,000 feet close to the big commercial jet traffic.
Gary paid just as much attention to detail in his
programming. Unlike other designers who are often
content to paint the broad picture and then let the more
junior programmers fill in the details, Gary designed,
implemented and debugged his products.
Gary frequently talked about the pleasure of watching the
earth slip beneath our feet as we crossed the country,
sometimes in excited conversation and other times silent
for hour upon hour in awe at the beauty and uniqueness of
the country we saw. On numerous occasions at night he
would turn off all the cockpit and instrument lights so that
we could watch the stars and the distant city lights.
Gary frequently talked about the pleasure of completing
the programs he'd written. He called me at some of the
strangest times to come see his programs run for the first
time. This was an infectious enthusiasm that he always
shared about his work. Gary was a pioneer, in the best
meaning of the word, who truly enjoyed creating new
Gary was a man of responsibility and calculated risks.
This applied to his flying as well as his work. I can
remember his anxiety during the early days of Digital
Research because he felt responsible for the livelihood of
the new employees during the growth of the company. I
remember his discomfort when he no longer knew the
names of all the new employees. He felt that same
responsibility about his flying. I can distinctly remember
our conversations the day after the loss of the space shuttle
Challenger. We wondered if the whole crew, especially
those not piloting understood and had calculated the risks.
Gary talked about his first flight in bad weather in
instrument conditions with his children asleep in the plane.
He was aware of his responsibilty and carefully calculated
During Gary's last years he devoted a great deal of time to
a manuscript he has written titled "Computer Connections:
People, Places, and Events in the Evolution of the
Personal Computer Industry". Learning and education
were one of his books theme's, beginning with his
academic days at the University of Washington where he
earned his bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science. He began his professional career as a professor
here at the Naval Postgraduate School. Even after leaving
this school to build a software business he still held on to a
passion for teaching. This is very clear in his manuscript
where he wrote,
"I took the battle against the BASIC language.
I did this because I felt that the kids using
BASIC on the Apple II and IBM's new PC
were being taught archaic mind tools to solve
problems. A new alternative had appeared on
the scene, a computer language called Logo.
I wrote Digital Research Logo, or Dr. Logo, as
it came to be called. Logo taught kids how to
think about solving complex problems.
Logo became popular among a largish cult
group of teachers that were computer literate,
and I believe their students gained significant
mind tools. But, in reality, most teachers found
themselves racing to catch up with their
brightest students and found solace in using
This is not a comment about inadequacies in
our educational system. It is a comment about
the times. I expected too much of educators.
I expected them to understand, in a sense, the
sugar-coated concepts of LISP used in AI that
were embodied in the Logo language.
It was then that I learned that computers were
built to make money, not minds."
In closing I would like to pay my tribute to Gary as a
pioneer. I could not resist pulling out the Webster's
Dictionary to look up the word pioneer. I was all too
pleased with the definition: "A pioneer is one who
originates anything or prepares the way for others."
Gary was truly a pioneer among pioneers.
Pacific Grove, Ca