Making a Difference

Mr. Cutler's Gift to PC Users

By Lawrence M. Fisher
The New York Times

July 12, 1992

San Francisco -- When David Cutler left the Digital Equipment Corporation in 1988, he was expected to start his own company, and the venture capitalists were there waiting for him. Mr. Cutler was best known as the chief architect of VMS, the operating system software for Digital's phenomenally successful minicomputer.

But instead, Mr. Cutler accepted a position at the Microsoft Corporation, where he was assigned to create an entirely new operating system. (Operating systems control the basic flow of data between the processor and the disk in a computer, or between multiple computers on a network.) Last week, more than 4,000 independent software developers crowded into the Moscone Center here to see the fruits of Mr. Cutler's labor, now known as Windows NT.

"My goal was to do a real operating system for PC's that incorporated some of the things I'd done before for minicomputers," Mr. Cutler said. Personal computers have been at a disadvantage because their operating systems lack some features, like data security or the ability to function with multiple users, that are central to minicomputer system software.

Windows NT differs from Mr. Cutler's past work in that it is a so-called open system, intended to work on computers from multiple manufacturers, rather than being limited to just one. Initially, Windows NT will run on computers using the Intel X86 family of microprocessors, like those from I.B.M. and Compaq, and on machines using the MIPS R4000 microprocessor, like the one made by Silicon Graphics. Others may follow.

"What the user is going to get is a whole new set of applications," said Mr. Cutler, who is 50 and holds the title of director of advanced operating system development. "You'll see faster things, things that are more integrated, and applications that ran on larger computers will move down" to PC's. In addition, Windows NT can run any program written for the earlier MS-DOS, Windows and OS/2 operating systems.

Microsoft began to ship copies of Windows NT -- the letters stand for New Technology -- to professional software developers last week; the consumer version of NT should be ready by the end of the year.

"I've been at this for 20 years now, and this is the fourth major system I've done," Mr. Cutler said. "You try to make each one better than the last and learn from what's come before."

GRAPHIC: Photo: David Cutler

Copyright 1992 The New York Times Company