Charles Simonyi

Charles Simonyi

Charles Simonyi (Simonyi Károly; born September 10, 1948) is a Hungarian computer software executive who, as head of Microsoft's application software group, oversaw the creation of Microsoft's flagship office applications. He now heads his own company, Intentional Software, with the aim of developing and marketing his concept of intentional programming. In 2007, he became the fifth space tourist and the second Hungarian in space. His estimated net worth is US$1 billion.


Simonyi was born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of Károly Simonyi, a professor of electrical engineering at Technical University of Budapest. While in high school he worked part-time as a night watchman at a computer laboratory, overseeing a large Soviet Ural II mainframe. He took an interest in computing and learned to program from one of the laboratory's engineers. By the time he left school, he had learned to develop compilers and sold one of these to a government department. He was hired by Denmark's A/S Regnecentralen in 1966 and moved to the United States in 1968 to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned his B.S. in Engineering Mathematics, specializing in Mathematics and Statistics, in 1972.

Simonyi then went to Stanford University for graduate studies and was hired by Xerox PARC during its most productive period, working alongside luminaries Alan Kay, Butler Lampson and Robert Metcalfe. He and Lampson developed Bravo, the first WYSIWYG document preparation program. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford in 1977 with a dissertation on a software project management technique called "metaprogramming." This approach sought to defeat Brooks's law by requiring all programmers to communicate through the manager rather than directly.

In 1981, at Metcalfe's suggestion, he applied directly to Bill Gates for a job at Microsoft. At the firm, Simonyi oversaw the development of what became its most profitable products, Word and Excel, as well as Excel's predecessor Multiplan. With Multiplan, Simonyi pursued a strategy called the "revenue bomb", whereby the product ran on a virtual machine that was ported to each platform. The resulting application was highly portable, although Simonyi did not foresee the rapid adoption of MS-DOS that made such efforts less important. Simonyi introduced the techniques of object-oriented programming that he had learned at Xerox to Microsoft. He developed the Hungarian notation convention for naming variables that has been widely used inside Microsoft and today it's one technique among many that helps programmers produce better code faster.

Simonyi remained at Microsoft during its meteoric rise in the software industry, becoming one of its highest-ranking developers. He left abruptly in 2002 to co-found, with business partner Gregor Kiczales, a company called Intentional Software. This company markets the intentional programming concepts Simonyi developed at Microsoft Research. In this approach to software, a programmer first builds a toolbox specific to a given problem domain (such as life insurance). Domain experts, aided by the programmer, then describe the program's intended behavior in a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG)-like manner. An automated system uses the program description and the toolbox to generate the final program. Successive changes are only done at the WYSIWYG level.

In 2004, Simonyi received the Wharton Infosys Business Transformation Award for the industry-wide impact of his innovative work in information technology.

Simonyi has been an active philanthropist. In 1995 he established an endowed chair for the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, the first and current occupant of which is Richard Dawkins. He also established a Charles Simonyi Professor for Innovation in Teaching endowed chair at Stanford University. In January 2004, Simonyi created the $50 million Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, through which Simonyi plans to support Seattle-area arts, science, and educational programs. Initial grant recipients include the Seattle Symphony ($10 million), and the Seattle Public Library ($3 million). In 2005, the Fund donated $25 million to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

Personal life

As of February 2008 Simonyi had been dating Martha Stewart for 15 years. He has since broken it off, got engaged August 8 and is now to wed Swedish millionaire's daughter Lisa Persdotter (28 years old) on November 22, 2008.

Simonyi is the owner of the purpose-built super yacht named Skat.

Simonyi's residence in Medina, Washington, "Villa Simonyi", is a modern house designed by architect Wendell Lovett, where Simonyi displays his collection of paintings by Roy Lichtenstein and Victor Vasarely.

Space tourist

In early 2006, Simonyi expressed interest in becoming a space tourist and signed agreements with the space tourism company, Space Adventures, Ltd., for a ten-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

In August 2006, he passed a pre-qualification medical exam by the Russian Federal Space Agency, called the State Medical Commission (GMK). He started training at Star City in September 2006.

He launched on April 7, 2007 (GMT), on board Soyuz TMA-10. He shared a ride with two Russian cosmonauts to the International Space Station, and returned aboard Soyuz TMA-9, scheduled to depart from the ISS on April 20, 2007.

Upon arrival to the ISS on April 9, 2007 Simonyi said, "It is amazing how it appears from the blackness of the sky. It was very, very dramatic. It was like a big stage set, a fantastic production of some incredible opera or modern play. That's what I was referring to when I said I was blown away.

Simonyi's expected return on April 20 was delayed by one day due to 'boggy ground'. He returned to Earth on April 21 along with an American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut.

In October 2008, he booked for a second trip to the ISS through Space Adventures on board Soyuz TMA-14.

Radio communication while aboard ISS

Charles Simonyi is a licensed amateur radio operator with the call sign KE7KDP, and planned to contact a number of schools while on his flight on the International Space Station utilizing amateur radio for the communication with those schools. On April 11, 2007 the American Radio Relay League reported that Simonyi was already making ham radio contacts from space.

One of the schools Simonyi contacted was Cedar Point Elementary in Bristow, Virginia. A telebridge conversation was held on Tuesday, April 17, 2007. Onboard with him were Oleg Kotov and Fyodor Yurchikhin.

Simonyi used his Hungarian call sign HA5SIK when he contacted 25 radio amateurs from Hungary in a record attempt on April 12. He contacted former and current students of Tivadar Puskás Polytechnic, Budapest on April 13.


External links

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