Expert Overview

Mel Conway’s career in IT began in 1956 with punched cards and vacuum-tube computers. From that time until now, his primary interest has been simplifying the process of building software; his perspective has been systems analysis of human activity. In 1963 two papers introduced four innovations on compiler design, including a pipeline of coroutines, that were adopted in the COBOL compilers of several computer manufacturers. The thesis of his 1968 paper on the design process has come to be known as “Conway’s Law.” In the 1970’s he consulted to hospitals and medical schools, and as an independent contractor he built interactive digital-to-video viewers for CAT and PETT scanners, based on TTL digital logic, for three medical institutions. In 1982 he cofounded a startup that built Macintosh Pascal for Apple based on his design, unique for immediate turnaround and source-level debugging in a computer with limited memory. Off and on from 1992 to the present he has been addressing the question: what would it take for software technology to be so simple that everybody understood it?

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