Artifact Details


Flynn, Mike (Michael J.) oral history

Catalog Number







Dennis, Eric, Videographer
Flynn, Michael J., Interviewee
Zeidman, Bob, Interviewer


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Mountain View, California


25 p.


Mike Flynn is a founder of the field of Computer Architecture. His research into computer hardware concepts has enabled enormous improvements in all areas of computer design and computer applications. He has authored many critical papers in the field, creating what is known as the Flynn taxonomy of computer architecture (SISD, MISD, SIMD, and MIMD).

As a boy, his interest in amateur radio led to his interest in computers. After a scholarship to Manhattan College to play French horn in the orchestra, Mike turned to the study of electronics. He went to work at IBM that paid for his PhD at Purdue University. Alongside other famous computer pioneers, Mike worked on the IBM 360 upon which IBM bet its future, a gamble that paid off extremely well for IBM. Mike then went to teach at Northwestern University, Johns Hopkins, and eventually Stanford University where he retired in 1999.

In this interview, Mike discusses what got him interested in computing, his rebel streak at IBM, and his collaboration with other pioneers in the field. In the 1970s he chaired a committee of computer scientists to evaluate the Safeguard missile defense program and gives his strong opinions about that. He talks about the ups and downs of his IBM career and his academic career. He discusses his current projects, post retirement, including a new high performance start-up, and gives a little advice to those considering entering the field of computer science.




Computer architecture; International Business Machines Corporation (IBM); Stanford University; Flynn taxonomy

Collection Title

Oral history collection

Lot Number