Artifact Details


Sutherland, Bert oral history

Catalog Number



Moving image


In this oral history interview, William Robert “Bert” Sutherland reviews his education in electrical engineering, naval career, and long storied career as a research manager at BBN, Xerox PARC, and Sun Labs. He begins by recounting his childhood, his ham radio hobby, and the encouragements of his father and mother for him and his brother, Ivan, to engage with electronics, engineering, and computing. He describes his undergraduate experience studying electrical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and his career as a Navy pilot and electronics specialist from 1957 to 1962. Sutherland describes his following experience at MIT, where he earned a master’s and doctorate in electrical engineering under the supervision of Claude Shannon. For both theses, he employed computers at the Lincoln Laboratory, TX-0 and TX-2. His PhD thesis was on graphical modes of computer programming. After earning his PhD in 1965, Sutherland remained at Lincoln, where he worked on the application of computing to the design and fabrication of integrated circuits. He then moved to BBN - Bolt, Beranek and Newman - and its computer science division, where he soon rose to VP responsible for managing the firm’s contacts with ARPA. In 1975, Alan Kay helped recruit Sutherland to Xerox PARC, where he assumed management of the Systems Science Laboratory. Sutherland’s SSL pursued many key projects in the history of computing including Smalltalk, Gypsy, HCI studies, integrated circuit and especially VLSI design, networking, along with speech and AI research. After PARC, he formed Sutherland, Sproull and Associates with Ivan Sutherland and Bob Sproull. The firm had a close partnership with venture investment firm Advanced Technology Ventures for the assessment of startups. Around this time, Sutherland joined the board of John Wiley and Sons. In 1990, Sutherland, Sproull, and Associates combined with Sun, and became integral to the operation and management of Sun Labs. Sutherland spent the remainder of his career leading Sun Labs, and in various subsequent roles with Sun. The interview concludes with Sutherland’s reflections on the management of industrial research, and the place of a research organization within a technology-based corporation.




Brock, David C., Interviewer
Sproull, Bob, Interviewer
Sutherland, Bert, Interviewee


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Mountain View, CA, USA




Oral history

Collection Title

CHM Oral History Collection


Computer History Museum

Lot Number


Related Records

102738279 Sutherland, Bert oral history