Artifact Details


Garst, Blaine oral history part 1

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Blaine Garst made important contributions to Unix System V at Bell Labs and Objective-C and Java at NeXT and Apple, most notably, protocols and reference counting in Objective-C.

Born in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1956, Blaine Garst was an exceptionally bright child. After moving to suburban Illinois, Garst attended University Laboratory High School, an experimental school run by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. It was here that he was introduced to computing, through a Russian language class run on the University's PLATO system. In college, he studied economics at the University of Illinois while also taking computer classes, and got a master's degree in Computer Science from UCLA, specializing in Programming Languages and Systems.

From there, Garst went on to Bell Labs in New Jersey to work on languages for the Bell Data Network, later transferring to the Unix System V group and becoming a manager. Garst had the distinction of bringing up the first Unix on a dual-processor, the VAX 11/782. In 1987, Garst joined a collaboration between Bell and Sun to unify their versions of Unix, moving to California and working with Bill Joy. Although this corporate partnership fizzled, Garst continued to work on improving the speed of interprocess communication in microkernels, leading to his hiring by Avie Tevanian at NeXT Computer in 1990.

At NeXT, Garst managed the Mach kernel team, but quickly moved on to other projects. Most notably, Garst collaborated with Bertrand Serlet to add protocols to the Objective-C language, based in part on his master's work in modular programming. In addition, Garst implemented a Distributed Objects system, added reference counting to the memory management system, and wrote many of the Foundation framework's original classes along with Serlet and Ali Ozer, as part of NeXT's OpenStep strategy to port its development environment to multiple platforms, including Sun's Solaris. Due to Sun's licensing the source code for NeXT's object-oriented frameworks, further work on the code base stopped. By 1996, NeXT's future was banking on its WebObjects web application server tools, and Sun's Java, which was very similar to Objective-C, was taking the industry by storm. Garst created a bridge between Objective-C and Java that allowed WebObjects applications to be written in Java. It was at this point that NeXT was acquired by Apple.




Garst, Blaine, Interviewee
Hsu, Hansen, Interviewer


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Mountain View, CA, USA


71 p.






Objective-C (computer programming language); Protocols; Foundation; Distributed Objects; Reference Counting; Java; Java-Bridge; WebObjects; UNIX; System V; Bertrand Serlet; Bill Joy; Avie Tevanian; microkernel; Interprocess Communication (IPC); University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Bell Labs; Sun; NeXT; Apple


Computer History Museum

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Related Records

102717172 Garst, Blaine oral history part 1