Gordon Bell Prize, Three Decades: Motivating and Measuring HPC Progress

Gordon Bell
Researcher Emeritus

Microsoft Research, USA


Click here for Gordon Bell’s presentation slides.

The Gordon Bell Prizes provide a history of HPC including the important innovations and transitions beginning with first award in 1987, that demonstrated that Amdahl’s Law was not impenetrable. For example, MPI provided both a model, standard and rapid adoption . Almost every gain in parallelism has been recognized, from widely distributed workstations to 10 million core processors. The overlap from the Seymour recipe of a shared memory, multi-vector processor (aka Fortran Computer) to today’s multicomputer turned out to show up and be incredibly fast. Bell would like to believe the prize helps in rapid adoptions of new paradigms e.g. GPUs and possibly FPGAs. The prize also recognized the value of specialized hardware. Finally, the prize recognizes the tremendous effort required to exploit the increasingly parallelism afforded by the computers as seen in the increase in number of authors.


Gordon Bell is a researcher emeritus (ret.) at the Microsoft Research Silicon Valley Laboratory. His interests include extreme lifelogging, digital lives, preserving everything in cyberspace, and cloud computing as a new computer class and platform aka Bell’s Law. He proselytizes Jim Gray’s Fourth Paradigm of Science.

Gordon joined Microsoft’s Bay Area Research Center Research in 1995, working on Telepresence “being there, while being here, at possibly some later time.” This work included multimedia in the home. In 1999 he began work on what became the project to capture all of life’s bits digitally.

MyLifeBits is a personal transaction processing database for everything. Gordon has captured a lifetime’s worth of articles, books, CDs, letters, memos, papers, photos, presentations, music, home movies, and videotaped lectures. He also has in his collection recordings of phone calls, IM transcripts, years of email, web browsing, and daily activities captured by the SenseCam. One of the challenges of MyLifeBits has been to build rich applications to encourage people to take their personal memorabilia out of the shoebox and store them digitally for all kinds of future usage including immortality. Gordon co-authored a book with Jim Gemmell called Total Recall. Released in 2009, the book is a culmination of their thoughts and experiences during the project.

Gordon’s previous roles have been vice president of research and development at Digital Equipment Corporation (1960-1983); professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University (1966-72); founding assistant director of the National Science Foundation’s Computing and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE) Directorate (1986-1988); panel chair of the National Research and Education Network (NREN) for creating the Internet (1987-1988); advisor/investor to 100+ High Tech start-up companies; and a founding trustee of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. He is a member of the ACM, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, IEEE, NAE, NAS, and 1991 National Medal of Technology medalist.