Software // Enterprise Applications
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3/14/2005
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Ethernet Inventor And Software-Quality Visionary Earn Technology Medals

President Bush awards inventor of Ethernet and visionary on software quality with National Medal of Technology in White House ceremony.

In a ceremony at the White House on Monday, President Bush presented the National Medal of Technology to some of the United States' most innovative teams, companies, and individuals, including the inventor of the Ethernet and one of the industry's leading visionaries on software quality.

The National Medal of Technology is the highest honor awarded by the president for technology innovators and rewards contributions to the nation's economic, environmental, and social well-being.

"All of you have been blessed with great talent and you have applied your talent to great purposes," Bush said. "Your work is making our country more competitive, more hopeful, and more prosperous." (See the full text of the president's speech here.)

Laureates included Robert Metcalfe, who invented Ethernet technology in 1970 at Xerox; Watts Humphrey, Fellow of the Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, for applying the principles of engineering and science to software development; and Jan Achenbach, from the Department of Mechanical and Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University, for pioneering ultrasonic methods for detecting cracks and corrosion in aircraft.

At a time when many high-tech CEOs worry that U.S. competitiveness is at risk, Humphrey thinks "opportunities are extraordinary and unlimited" in the United States. "We have so many talented people participating [in technology innovation] from all parts of the world," he said by phone. "We have a melting pot of very creative people, and that's a strength we have over other societies that are more homogeneous."

He believes, however, that there's a significant amount of exposure in the software--not just in the United States, but worldwide. "Software development, by and large, is done in an ad hoc way. It is a craft where people learn the best techniques from their buddies, and there is very little in the way of scientific methods being used," he said. "A large percentage of time is spent writing and testing code and fixing things that were done wrong in the first place."

Humphrey and Carnegie Mellon's Software Engineering Institute are trying to lead the industry toward defect-free software through the use of two methods--the Personal Software Process and the Team Software process--that use advanced engineering techniques. Humphrey also developed the basis for the Capability Maturity Model for Software, which became the generally accepted standard for assessing and improving software processes worldwide.

"Watts is the most outstanding leader and proponent of software quality," said Bill Peterson, director of the software engineering process-management program at CMU's SEI. "He has brought to software the discipline and principles that we've learned from other industries. There are other gurus in the field, but none have had the impact that Watt has."

A team from Corning Inc. also received medals for its work designing cellular ceramic substrate for catalytic converters. Two companies also received awards: UOP LLC for innovation in petroleum refining and petrochemical industries; and Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, for pioneering ways to transfer university ideas and knowledge to U.S. businesses.

This story was modified on March 18 to correct the spelling of Robert Metcalfe's name.

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