New Computing Award Goes to Bell Labs Researcher Ken Thompson

Award Recognizes Impact of UNIX System On Computing and Communications

MURRAY HILL, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 25, 1999--The Computer Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has chosen Bell Labs researcher Ken Thompson to receive the first Tsutomu Kanai Award.

The award, endowed with a 20-million yen grant from Hitachi Ltd. in 1995, was established in honor of Dr. Kanai, who joined Hitachi as a researcher in 1958 and retires as president this month. The award recognizes contributions in the area of distributed computing systems.

The IEEE Computer Society formally announced the 1999 Kanai Award this week in Tokyo, at the Fourth International Symposium on Autonomous Decentralized Systems. It cited Thompson for his role in creating the UNIX(a) operating system, which for decades has been a key platform for distributed systems work.

Since 1966, when he received his M.S. in electrical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, Ken Thompson has been a member of the Computing Sciences Research Center at Bell Labs, the R&D arm of Lucent Technologies. His research has been focused on operating systems, programming languages, software for voice and data communications, security, computer games, and digital music distribution. With Joseph Condon, he created the hardware and software for Belle, which was for several years the top chess-playing computer in the world. His recent work includes call processing for Lucent's PathStar Access Server, a new class of product enabling network providers to offer low-cost, high-quality voice and data services over the Internet.

The work recognized by the Kanai Award began at Bell Labs in 1969, when Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and Rudd Canaday were exploring ways to enable multiple simultaneous users to share a computer file system. Thompson conceived the UNIX time-sharing operating system that spring and co-developed it, with Ritchie and a now-legendary band of collaborators, over the next few years.

Together with the C programming language and an influential set of software tools created for the UNIX programming environment, the UNIX system spurred revolutionary changes in computing and communications.

"The UNIX system and portable C compilers made open systems possible," said Ravi Sethi, vice president of the Computing and Mathematical Sciences Research division at Bell Labs. "They allowed computers ranging from microprocessors to supercomputers to run the same software with virtually no change from one machine to another," Sethi said.

The ideas of openness and generality embodied in the UNIX system enabled the growth of distributed computing and have strongly influenced the development of today's global network of voice and data networks.

Ken Thompson is a Bell Labs Fellow and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). He holds half a dozen patents in computing technology. With Dennis Ritchie, he has received a number of awards recognizing the impact of the UNIX system and C, including Japan's C&C Prize, the IEEE's Emmanuel R. Piore Award and Richard Hamming Medal, and the ACM's Turing Award and Software System Award. Next month, President Clinton will present the U.S. National Medal of Technology to Ritchie and Thompson in a White House ceremony.

The IEEE Computer Society ( is the world's largest association of computer professionals, and the largest constituent society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The Computer Society publishes 21 periodicals, releases more than 130 books per year, and annually sponsors more than 100 conferences throughout the world.

Lucent Technologies (, headquartered at Murray Hill, N.J., designs, builds, and delivers a wide range of public and private networks, communications systems and software, data networking systems, business telephone systems, and microelectronics components. Bell Labs ( is the company's research and development arm.

(a) UNIX is a registered trademark of the Santa Cruz Operation.