Artifact Details


Tevanian, Avadis oral history

Catalog Number





Born of Armenian parents in 1961, into a working class, entrepreneurial family, Avadis "Avie" Tevanian grew up in New England, the oldest of four boys. His dad a machinist, from a young age, Avie and his brothers were into building things, but Avie alone showed a particular aptitude for mathematics.

Having been introduced to a PDP-8 in high school, Avie enrolled at the University of Rochester after discovering they had a lab of Xerox Altos, on which he wrote several games and contributed to research. Avie continued on to graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University. Working under Professor Rick Rashid, another Rochester graduate, Avie started the Mach microkernel project, which quickly grew to over a dozen people. Based on concepts from Rashid's Accent operating system, Mach was to be an improvement on Accent by targeting parallel processors, be highly portable, and be able to run BSD Unix programs.

Engineers at Steve Jobs’ NeXT Computer decided they wanted to use Mach for NeXT’s operating system after they saw the work presented at a UNIX conference in 1986. Avie later attended a dinner in Palo Alto where Steve first relayed that interest. After finishing his dissertation, Avie joined NeXT, turning down an offer from Microsoft.

After only a year leading the core OS team, Avie became the manager of the entire OS group, and eventually took over as Vice President of Software after the departure of Bud Tribble. Under Avie's watch, NeXT completed its transition to the enterprise software business, porting the NEXTSTEP OS to Intel and various Unix RISC workstations, and coming out with WebObjects, the first object-oriented web application server, which could have become the basis for a NeXT IPO. These plans were scuttled upon Apple's acquisition of NeXT in late 1996, where Avie became Senior Vice President of Software.




Brock, David C., Interviewer
Hsu, Hansen, Interviewer
Markoff, John, Interviewer
Tevanian, Avadis, Interviewee


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Mountain View, CA






Xerox Alto; Rochester; Carnegie Mellon; Rick Rashid; Mach; microkernel; Steve Jobs; NeXT; NEXTSTEP; WebObjects; Apple

Collection Title

CHM Oral History


Computer History Museum

Lot Number