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In Memory of


May 19, 1942 -- July 11, 1994

Memorial Service
July 15, 1994
Naval Postgraduate School
Monterey, California


On behalf of Kristin, Scott, and the Kildall family I welcome you to this memorial service for Gary Kildall. Today we will pay tribute to the accomplishments and life of Gary Kildall.

Gary Kildall was a pioneer who brought order into the early chaos of the PC industry by providing focus, leadership and vision. In a competitive, often impersonal microcomputer industry, Gary showed us that friends and business associates are one and the same. His family and friends will long remember him.


I must begin this talk by admitting to you that this is the most difficult task that I have ever done in my life. I am an enthusiastic high energy person usually operating at about 100 Mhz. Giving a eulogy is not something which fits very well with my personality, or that I have been prepared to do. It is, however, something I want to do with all my heart.

Gary Kildall was the best male friend I have ever had in my life. I trusted him implicitly, with my life and my work.

Let me tell you about the Gary I knew and loved as viewed through my eyes and with my heart. I've often been accused of being entirely too cheerful, even a "Pollyanna", seeing only the good in people. This may tell you something about being chosen as one of Gary's close friends.

Gary was the biggest "kid" I've ever known. He had a child-like enthusiasm which was obvious in his work and recreation. A man with a multitude of toys from airplanes, to cars, boats, motorcycles, and yes, computers too. I couldn't express it better myself than on the front cover of the first issue of Byte Magazine in September of 1975 which carried the headline, "COMPUTERS- the World's Greatest Toy!" Gary was on to something long before there was a Nintendo or Sega. Creating programs is a lot of fun. Gary was a man of many passions, he was warm and open to those he loved, I shared many of his passions and I will share some of them with you. Gary had a wonderful way of calmly and patiently guiding my enthusiasm, especially for computer technology and flying. During the often frantic hours of preparation for a tradeshow or a customer visit I would literally run in circles from one task to another until I realized that Gary was standing in the middle of that circle smiling at me, waiting for me to notice him and then he would calmly suggest that I take a deep breath and slow down. Gary always had the confidence that the tasks would be completed, and that gave me confidence in myself. We all know what we can accomplish when we believe in ourselves, and Gary taught me that confidence.

I have frequently heard it said that you can learn a lot about a person by playing golf with them. Living here on the Monterey peninsula and not being a golfer may be some form of misdemeanor. But, Gary and I shared something even better than golfing, we flew together. I believe that you can learn even more about a person by flying with them. I have been Gary's co-pilot for over 1,000 hours and that is where I learned the most about him. He was passionate about flying and loved the aircraft he flew.

As I wrote this eulogy I came to the realization that there were a lot of parallels between the way Gary flew and the way he programmed. The first parallel that came to mind was his planning ahead before a flight. Gary was very methodical before every trip, whether we were going out for a brief bit of aerobatics in his Pitts biplane, or flying across the country to Boston in the twin-engine Aerostar. While my own personality would have prompted more spontaneous departures, Gary's would always be done after detailed weather briefings, fuel loading, and weight and balance calculations. Gary's programming was just as methodical. It always began with complete and detailed sketches of data structures on large sheets of paper. The coding never began until he had visualized and comprehended the overall design.

The second parallel was the flight itself. From the preflight to landing, Gary was a consumate professional in his flying, paying attention to every detail and never getting flustered. He was always calm, confident, and equally demanding of detail from his co-pilot. He would have me rehearse my ATC transmissions over and over so that I would sound like a professional. After all, we were flying up at 25,000 feet close to the big commercial jet traffic.

Gary paid just as much attention to detail in his programming. Unlike other designers who are often content to paint the broad picture and then let the more junior programmers fill in the details, Gary designed, implemented and debugged his products.

Gary frequently talked about the pleasure of watching the earth slip beneath our feet as we crossed the country, sometimes in excited conversation and other times silent for hour upon hour in awe at the beauty and uniqueness of the country we saw. On numerous occasions at night he would turn off all the cockpit and instrument lights so that we could watch the stars and the distant city lights.

Gary frequently talked about the pleasure of completing the programs he'd written. He called me at some of the strangest times to come see his programs run for the first time. This was an infectious enthusiasm that he always shared about his work. Gary was a pioneer, in the best meaning of the word, who truly enjoyed creating new products.

Gary was a man of responsibility and calculated risks. This applied to his flying as well as his work. I can remember his anxiety during the early days of Digital Research because he felt responsible for the livelihood of the new employees during the growth of the company. I remember his discomfort when he no longer knew the names of all the new employees. He felt that same responsibility about his flying. I can distinctly remember our conversations the day after the loss of the space shuttle Challenger. We wondered if the whole crew, especially those not piloting understood and had calculated the risks. Gary talked about his first flight in bad weather in instrument conditions with his children asleep in the plane. He was aware of his responsibilty and carefully calculated the risk.

During Gary's last years he devoted a great deal of time to a manuscript he has written titled "Computer Connections: People, Places, and Events in the Evolution of the Personal Computer Industry". Learning and education were one of his books theme's, beginning with his academic days at the University of Washington where he earned his bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science. He began his professional career as a professor here at the Naval Postgraduate School. Even after leaving this school to build a software business he still held on to a passion for teaching. This is very clear in his manuscript where he wrote,

"I took the battle against the BASIC language. I did this because I felt that the kids using BASIC on the Apple II and IBM's new PC were being taught archaic mind tools to solve problems. A new alternative had appeared on the scene, a computer language called Logo. I wrote Digital Research Logo, or Dr. Logo, as it came to be called. Logo taught kids how to think about solving complex problems.

Logo became popular among a largish cult group of teachers that were computer literate, and I believe their students gained significant mind tools. But, in reality, most teachers found themselves racing to catch up with their brightest students and found solace in using BASIC.

This is not a comment about inadequacies in our educational system. It is a comment about the times. I expected too much of educators. I expected them to understand, in a sense, the sugar-coated concepts of LISP used in AI that were embodied in the Logo language. It was then that I learned that computers were built to make money, not minds."

In closing I would like to pay my tribute to Gary as a pioneer. I could not resist pulling out the Webster's Dictionary to look up the word pioneer. I was all too pleased with the definition: "A pioneer is one who originates anything or prepares the way for others."

Gary was truly a pioneer among pioneers.

Tom Rolander
Pacific Grove, Ca

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