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 8-bit byte, 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 system that 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.,3771,0201835959,00.html