Gordon Letwin

Gordon is one of the most amazing programmers on the planet.

He wrote a vast quantity of software for PUCC and other Purdue University organizations.

Gordon At Purdue

Gordon practiced software reuse before it was popular.

Back in punched-card days, we used to get a kick out of Gordon's habit of recycling cards. He'd periodically sort his discards and keep them in a box. Then if he subsequently needed a "DO 100 I=1,N", he could pull it out of his box and he wouldn't have to wait in the "express" punch line.

We made fun at the time but I've never met a more productive programmer.

Gordon At Wintek

At one point, Gordon began working for WintekCorp.

One of Gordon's projects was to develop a PL/M cross compiler with the 8080 as a target. After a while, Intel lawyers advised Wintek to cease and desist using the PL/M name, which they owned. Wintek then renamed the product PL/W.

Another big Wintek contract was to provide a suite of development tools for an 8080 prototype microprocessor lab they were going to produce. For this contract, Gordon wrote

This consisted of around 10,000 lines of 8080 assembly code and Gordon completed this work in just a couple of months.

JimBesemer took considerably longer to port this suite to the 6800. On this project, Jim learned the storage management technique Gordon used called ManagedTables.

After completing this project, Gordon was hired by Heath Corp. to maintain it and this began his "Gordon At Heath" career phase.

Gordon At Heath

Supporting this 8080 Basic at Heath ultimately put Gordon in head-to-head competition with BillGates. Although Gordon was then a Heath employee and arguably had the technically superior implementation, Bill was able to overwhelm Heath executives with a superior marketing and sales pitch. (The pitch relied heavily on "industry standard" and other intangible arguments, which have worked well for Gates and Microsoft ever since.)

Gordon was royally pissed losing to a technically inferior product. But Gates knew a valuable asset when he saw one and ultimately was able to convince Gordon to come to work for him. A key part of his pitch to Gordon included privately admitting that Gordon had the better implementation: "see, they obviously don't appreciate you here; come work for me where people will recognize your extraordinary talents." This made Gordon one of the first dozen or so people to join the then fledgling Microsoft.

Gordon At Microsoft.

Gordon's first assignment at Microsoft was to produce a Basic compiler. He completed that in about 2 months.

Other things he did for Microsoft include:

In recognition of his contribution and devotion to the company, Bill Gates awarded him a stock grant of 1% of the company when Microsoft went public.

Gordon In Retirement

Gordon's work at Microsoft afforded him an enviable and comfortable retirement. When he's not vacationing or commuting between his southwestern ranch and his modest Redmond estate, he pursues a long-standing programming interest of his: Home Automation. I understand he's working on automating the home of his buddy, BillGates, in addition to his own.

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