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High Five: Meet Charles Simonyi, CEO Of Intentional Software

Charles Simonyi is CEO of Intentional Software, which aims to commercialize a new form of software development that allows line-of-business employees to help write programs. Simonyi, a tech pioneer, is considered the father of the GUI word processor and recently became a space tourist.

Charles Simonyi
CEO Of Intentional Software

Interview by J. Nicholas Hoover

Charles Simonyi, CEO Of Intentional Software --  Photograph by Sergei Remezov/Reuters

Photograph by Sergei Remezov/Reuters

The scale of the industry has changed greatly since Simonyi worked as a researcher at Xerox PARC in the 1970s. "When we started to work on the Alto"--an experimental PC--"we had been using one of the first 1-Kbit dynamic RAM chips. It was an amazing experience."

Simonyi joined Microsoft in 1981 at the urging of Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet. "I decided to leave Xerox because I didn't believe in their commitment to bring technology to market. We put together a list of the key players, and Microsoft and Bill Gates were the first ones on the list." Simonyi held a number of titles at Microsoft, including chief architect for a dozen years.

The biggest, most important Microsoft bet, Simonyi says, was the graphical user interface. "We made that bet way before anybody else did, including Apple. We had been trying to sell mice before there were really any applications for mice." He left Microsoft to found Intentional in 2002.

Simonyi bought himself a spot on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft that went to the space station in April. Before that, he'd seen both the first shuttle and Apollo 9 take off. Then he traveled to Russia to see a launch and found out flying in space was actually possible for a civilian. "That's how it started."

Simonyi set up ham radio contact with schools and Boy Scouts from space. "When I used the space station call sign NA1SS, there was always someone to talk to."

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