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Gordon Bell

2003 Fellow

For his key role in the minicomputer revolution, and for contributions as a computer architect and entrepreneur.


Gordon Bell (standing) and Alan Kotok at a DEC PDP-6 computer, ca. 1963
Gordon Bell (standing) and Alan Kotok at a DEC PDP-6 computer, ca. 1963

Gordon Bell was born in Kirksville, Missouri, in 1934. He received B.S. (1956) and M.S. (1957) degrees in electrical engineering from MIT.

In 1960, Bell was hired by the founders of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) to design circuits and systems for their new PDP-1 computer. He became the architect of several other important computers at DEC and was considered a brilliant designer. In 1966, Bell left to teach computer science at Carnegie Mellon University but returned to DEC in 1972 as vice president of engineering. He then led the company in a bold direction based on his vision for a new family of computers called the VAX, which would become the most successful product in company history.

Bell retired from DEC in 1983 but later launched several companies to design and build high-performance computer systems using new technologies. In 1987, he established the ACM Gordon Bell Prize to reward original research in parallel processing.

Since 1995, he has worked at Microsoft as a researcher and is also an angel investor and entrepreneur.

Bell is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and received the U.S. National Medal of Technology in 1991. With Gwen Bell and Ken Olsen, he was a founder of The Computer Museum.