• COMMENT 2019-09-07 BY OHI team

    OHI interview with Gordon Bell:The father of the minicomputers

    OHI interview with Gordon Bell
    The father of the minicomputers

    OHI project interviewed Gordon Bell on 7th September 2019 in San Francisco.


    It was the second time that we interviewed Gordon Bell, the father of the minicomputers. The first three-hour interview was two years ago, in his apartment with a broad vision at San Francisco. This year, we want to know more detailed stories of his personal life.


    It was supposed to be a two-hour interview, however, when it comes to the Internet, Gordon Bell just could not stop,actually the total interview lasted more than 3 hours.

    He showed his interest in engineering at the age of 6 when he began to help the family’s business. During his years in DEC, he achieved two well-known achievements: the first one is undoubtedly the minicomputers designed in the 1960s which raised the computer industry revolutions, and the second one is the best-selling VAX model in the history of DEC in the 1970s. After that, he liberated the computer from the closed large room. As a result, the minority group of professionals was no longer the only users who can approach the computer.


    His achievements have raised the hacker culture and user engagement consciousness which shacks the entire society and era. Even so, his contributions and promotions are often overlooked by people.


    Gordon Bell has problems with his heart since childhood. He retired early from DEC in 1983 because of a serious heart attack. After that, he chose to retire and went to the field of education. He began to participate in the National Science Foundation (NSF) and promote the development of computers and networks. He also facilitated the implementation of Gore Bill (HPCA) which supports the development of the high-performance computers and pushed the development of NSFnet.


    For me, the most appealing story of Gordon Bell is his interest and persistence in building up the history museum. In 1979, 40 years ago, he and his wife founded the Computer History Museum in Boston, the predecessor of the Silicon Valley Computer History Museum. Based on his experiences of founding museums, we invited him to serve as consultant of the World Internet Museum (WIM), which is one of our future projects. I believe that his experience and insight would be a precious gift for us.


    He is 85 years old and still maintains good health. We hope that we can continue to chat with him in the future.


    Please follow us for more stories about Gordon Bell.

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