Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. is a computer scientist best known for authorship of
The Mythical Man-Month
, a collection of essays on software engineering
considered to be one of the most important works in that field. However, his
contributions to modern computing go well beyond that single book. Decisions
he made on the IBM System/360
project-- including the use of an
, making the byte the addressable unit of storage, the inclusion
of a full character set, and the introduction of a
character-string data type
(in the PL/I
language)-- have become
standard practices in the field. He was also the first person to refer to
a computer architecture
, and the 360 architecture he designed led
to the creation of the first true family of computers-- a line of machines
that varied widely in performance aspects but remained fully inter-compatible
with each other. Further, Brooks co-invented an interrupt
introduced most of the concepts used in modern interrupts.
Fred Brooks was born in Durham, NC in 1931. He graduated
first in class with a degree in physics from Duke University in 1953, and
completed his master's and doctorate
(under Howard Aiken) in Computer Science at Harvard in 1955-1956.
The year he earned his doctorate, Brooks went to work for IBM, architecting
the Stretch and Harvest computers. In 1957, while working on the
Stretch project, he and Dura Sweeney invented the interrupt system alluded
to above. From 1961 to 1965, Brooks designed-- and managed the development
of-- IBM's System/360 family of computers and the OS/360 operating system
that ran on them. His experiences in managing that project are the basis for
The Mythical Man-Month.
In 1965, he left IBM to found the Department of Computer Science at the
University of North Carolina. He chaired that department until 1985, the
same year he-- along with Bob Evans and Eric Block-- was awarded the
first National Medal of Technology for his work on System/360.
Computer science associations, industry groups, and academic institutions have
virtually stood in line to present Brooks with some of their most
prestigious awards. The Association for Computing Machinery awarded
Brooks its Distinguished Service Award in
1987, citing his "outstanding innovations in computer architecture, including
pipelining, instruction look-ahead, and cache memory." In 1993,
Brooks was awarded the John von Neumann Medal by the IEEE, which
cited his "significant developments in computer architecture, insightful
observations on software engineering, and ... computer science education and
professional service." One year later, he received the ACM's first
Allen Newell Award "in recognition of the breadth of his career
contributions ... within Computer Science and Engineering (CSE); and his
interdisciplinary contributions to visualization methods for Biochemistry."
Most recently, Brooks received the 1999 Turing Award from the ACM for
"landmark contributions to computer architecture,
operating systems, and software engineering."
Fred Brooks is currently the Kenan Professor of
Computer Science at UNC, and is conducting research in the areas of 3D
graphics, HCI, virtual worlds, and molecular graphics.