ACM Announces New Charles P. “Chuck” Thacker Breakthrough in Computing Award

Award and $100,000 Prize Will Recognize Individuals Who Have Made Revolutionary Contributions; Nominations Now Open

New York, NY, September 25, 2018 – ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, today announced the inaugural ACM Charles P. “Chuck” Thacker Breakthrough in Computing Award (“ACM Breakthrough Award”). Named in honor of the late Chuck Thacker, an engineer and 2009 ACM A.M. Turing Award recipient, the new award is designed to recognize those whose work embodies the same revolutionary impact that exemplified Thacker’s career. A cash prize in the amount of $100,000 will accompany the award, with financial support provided by Microsoft. Nominations can now be submitted via an online submission form and will be accepted through January 15, 2019.

The ACM Breakthrough Award will recognize individuals who have made surprising, disruptive or leapfrog contributions to computing ideas or technologies. Their work should also provide a new capability or understanding that influences the course of computing in a deep and significant manner through numerous downstream influences and outcomes. Due to the breakthrough nature of the award, it is expected that it will be presented biennially and will not be presented if there is no nominee who meets the criteria in a particular year. The award will be presented at ACM’s annual Awards Banquet.

“Chuck Thacker envisioned over-the-horizon possibilities and then worked with passion to bring them to life. His vivid imagination, deep technical insights, and practical ‘we can do it’ attitude led to inventions that, through his own work and through leading teams, transformed the world,” said Eric Horvitz, Technical Fellow and Director of Microsoft Research Labs. “We are honored to serve as founding sponsor of this new ACM award as a fitting tribute to Chuck’s indelible legacy.”

“In ACM’s nomination guidelines for this new award we used the term ‘leapfrog,’ for the kind of contributions we are seeking to recognize with this new award,” explained ACM President Cherri M. Pancake. “Chuck Thacker designed and introduced the Xerox Alto—which we now recognize as the first personal computer—Ethernet and the Tablet PC, among other seminal inventions. The purpose of this new ACM award will be to call attention to those who are changing the world by fundamentally reimagining what is possible in technology.”

In keeping with the goals of the ACM Awards Program to disseminate knowledge and celebrate innovation, recipients of the ACM Breakthrough Award will be expected to give an “ACM Breakthrough Lecture” at a major ACM conference of their choice during the year following the announcement.

About Chuck Thacker
Charles P. “Chuck” Thacker (1943-2017) made contributions across the full breadth of computer development, from analog circuit and power supply design to logic design, processor and network architecture, system software, languages, and applications. Among his many contributions, Thacker was the lead engineer in the development of the Xerox Alto Computer, which was introduced in 1973 and is credited with being the first personal computer. Thacker later made fundamental contributions to personal computing with Lectrice, a laboratory prototype for today’s portable PCs; a prototype upon which Microsoft Tablet PC software was developed; and a system for reading electronic books that laid the groundwork for many of today’s e-readers.

While at Xerox, Thacker also led the development of hardware for Bob Metcalfe’s invention of the Ethernet local area network (LAN), which facilitated communication among computers. One of Thacker’s most recent contributions is the design of AN3, a low-cost, efficient circuit-switched data center network.

Thacker was a Technical Fellow at Microsoft Research, Palo Alto. He held 29 patents. During his career Thacker received the ACM A.M. Turing Award, the IEEE John von Neumann Medal, the ACM Software System Award (together with Butler Lampson and Robert  Taylor), and the Charles Stark Draper Prize (together with Alan Kay, Butler Lampson and Robert Taylor), among many other honors. He was also posthumously recognized with the ACM - IEEE CS Eckert-Mauchly Award.

About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world's largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting educators, researchers, and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources, and address the field's challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession's collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

Jim Ormond
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