The Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) has given this year's Turing Award to Charles Thacker, currently a Microsoft researcher.
The award, widely considered as the technology industry's Nobel Prize, was given to Thacker for his groundbreaking work at Xerox's PARC facility, where he had a hand in developing Ethernet, and designing and building the first graphical user interface.
"ACM has named Charles Thacker as the recipient of the award for his pioneering design and realisation of the Alto, the first modern personal computer, and the prototype for networked personal computers," said the organisation.
"Alto incorporated bitmap (TV-like) displays, which enable modern graphical user interfaces, including what-you-see-is-what-you-get editors. Thacker's design, which he built while at Xerox PARC, reflected a new vision of a self-sufficient, networked computer on every desk, equipped with innovations that are standard in today's models."
"I was extremely surprised," said Thacker. "I never expected to win this one. There are several other nice awards that I've won that I thought were within the realm of possibility, but this one I never even thought was possible."
After leaving PARC Thacker went on to DEC where he invented the Firefly workstation, the first such system to use multiple processors. In 1997 he joined Microsoft where he worked on the design for the Tablet PC and set up Microsoft's research base in the UK at Cambridge.
"Many people in the field of computing today owe the path of their careers to Chuck, myself included," said Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research.
"As a graduate student at the University of Rochester in New York, I began using a Xerox Alto and Ethernet in 1975, and that led directly to the research in operating systems and distributed computing that has defined my life."
The Turing Award has been an annual event since 1966 and comes with a cash prize of $250,000 (£167,000), contributed by Intel and Google.
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