Michael Dertouzos: Google Doodle celebrates life of renowned computer scientist

Google is honoring ...

Posted: Nov 5, 2018 9:10 AM
Updated: Nov 5, 2018 9:10 AM

Google is honoring computer scientist Michael Dertouzos, who predicted how the internet and the rise of personal computers would impact people's lives, with a new Doodle on what would have been his 82nd birthday.

Dertouzos was the director of MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science for almost three decades and is renowned for making complicated technology accessible to the general public.

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In Monday's Google Doodle, Dertouzos is depicted with a chalk in hand standing before a blackboard with illustrations of the internet and computers around him.

Promoting innovation

Dertouzos was born in Athens, Greece on November 5, 1936. His mother was a concert pianist and his father was an admiral in the Greek navy. Upon graduating Athens College, he won a Fulbright scholarship to attend the University of Arkansas. Dertouzos earned a Ph.D. from MIT and joined the faculty in 1964.

Dertouzos became director of the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) in 1974, and under his leadership, it grew into one of the largest research labs at MIT with 400 faculty members, graduate students, and research staff. Under his watch, the research center developed much of the innovative technology that is used in today's computer systems, including RSA encryption, the widely used algorithm for ensuring secure data transmission.

Dertouzos was instrumental in making LCS the North American home of the World Wide Web Consortium, an alliance of organizations that determines standards for all Web infrastructure. He also recruited the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, to run the consortium.

In a message posted to the consortium's website following Dertouzos's death, Berners-Lee said, "If it hadn't been for Michael there would not probably have been a World Wide Web Consortium."

His "enthusiasm, capability, insight, and experience drove a crazy half-formed idea into an international reality," he said.

'Information Marketplace'

Dertouzos is remembered for striving to bridge the gap between technology and humanity.

In 1999, he spurred LCS and MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab to head the $50 million Oxygen project, which aimed to make computers "as natural a part of our environment as the air we breathe."

Dertouzos published eight books, among them was his 1997 "What Will Be: How the New World of Information Will Change Our Lives," which predicted how the internet would become an "Information Marketplace."

"If we strip the hype away," he said in the book, "a simple, crisp and inevitable picture emerges -- of an Information Marketplace where people and their computers will buy, sell and freely exchange information and information work."

In his final book, "The Unfinished Revolution: Human-Centered Computers and What They Can Do for Us," which was published in 2001, Dertouzos wrote about how he believed computers should serve humans and fulfill humanity's needs.

Dertouzos died on August 31, 2001 at the age of 64.

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