Severo Ornstein's life in computing spans several key eras including early work on SAGE and Whirlwind at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, followed by him joining the TX-2 team led by Wesley Clark. He then moved onto a central team role designing and delivering the hardware of Clark's innovative Laboratory Instrument Computer (LINC), considered by some to be the first personal workstation. In the late 1960s Severo was a lead hardware engineer on Frank Heart’s team at BBN which developed the IMP (Interface Message Processor) and other key hardware and software for the ARPAnet. Severo’s career then took him to Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) where he co-led development of the Dorado, then the world's most powerful workstation, and collaborated on the development of Mockingbird, the first visual music composition software, also running on the Dorado.
In later years Severo co-founded Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) to address the threat of nuclear weapons. Severo is one of the leading hardware designers of his generation, having worked on and delivered systems as diverse as vacuum tube machines, transistorized systems, early modular designs with removable storage, designs based on asynchronous concepts, and powerful workstation class machines. He is the son of composer and pianist Leo Ornstein.