Artifact Details


Nassi, Ike oral history

Catalog Number



Moving image


Ike Nassi grew up in Brooklyn and attended Brooklyn Technical High School and went to college at SUNY Stony Brook on Long Island to study mathematics, remaining at Stony Brook to complete his Ph.D. in Computer Science on structured programming language semantics. After graduation in 1974, Nassi worked for SofTech on compilers for military aircraft, then moved to Digital Equipment Corporation in 1976, working on development of the VAX-11. Nassi got involved in the Ada language design effort for DARPA in 1978. Nassi left DEC in 1982 to work at Ontel, a startup making CP/M-based microcomputers. Nassi then joined Gordon Bell’s super-minicomputer startup Encore Computer to work on parallel processing, across the street in Wellesley, Massachusetts from Software Arts. A friend at Software Arts introduced Nassi to the Macintosh in 1984, and Nassi became an avid user, even creating a side business selling hard disks for the Mac. Nassi was introduced to Larry Tesler at an OOPSLA conference and a few years later, was asked by Tesler to run Apple’s new Advanced Technology Group research lab in Cambridge, MA near MIT. Nassi accepted, and began working on the object-oriented Dylan language, which was intended for use in the Newton PDA. This did not work out and Dylan was pivoted to run on the Macintosh instead. During this time Nassi had contact with Alan Kay. Nassi then moved California to become VP of Development Tools at Apple, ultimately taking over all of Apple’s system software efforts. Nassi started the MkLinux project to bring a microkernel-based Mach and Linux to the Mac. Nassi also served on the boards of Taligent and the OpenDoc Foundation. Nassi left Apple just as negotiations took place to acquire Steve Jobs’ NeXT in 1996. After Apple, Nassi joined InfoGear, which made a non-mobile touchscreen-based Internet phone/appliance called “iPhone” years before Apple’s smartphone of the same name. InfoGear was acquired by Cisco. After working at Cisco for a time, Nassi started Firetide, a startup making wireless mesh networks. After growing Firetide to a point at which it no longer needed him, Nassi left and joined SAP as Senior VP of Research. At SAP, in addition to running research centers around the world, Nassi began building supercomputers for use by in-memory databases, mostly for internal use, achieving orders of magnitude improvements in performance. Nassi was unable to convince SAP to pursue building such hardware for customers and left to become an adjunct professor at UC Santa Cruz. Working with a small group, and drawing on earlier ideas from Encore and his supercomputing efforts at SAP, Nassi decided to start TidalScale, which makes a scalable virtual machine that spans multiple physical commodity servers. Nassi has also been a founding trustee of the Computer History Museum and before that, was an Overseer of The Computer Museum in Boston in the 1990s.




Markoff, John, Interviewer
Nassi, Ike R., Interviewee


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Mountain View, CA






Oral history

Collection Title

CHM Oral History Collection


Computer History Museum

Lot Number


Related Records

102717190 Nassi, Ike oral history