Michael L. Dertouzos

July 11, 2009

The late Michael Dertouzos was Director of the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) since 1974. For more than a quarter century, the Lab has been at the forefront of the computer revolution. Its members and alumni have been instrumental in the invention of such innovations as time-shared computers, RSA encryption, the Spreadsheet, the NuBus, the X-Window system, the ARPAnet and the Internet. The Lab is currently home to the World Wide Web Consortium, an open forum of companies and organizations led by the Web’s inventor.

Dertouzos spent much of his career studying and forecasting future technological shifts, and leading his lab toward making them a reality. In a 1976 People magazine interview, he successfully predicted the emergence of a PC in every 3-4 homes by the mid-1990s. In 1980, he first wrote about the Information Marketplace, with an ambitious vision of networked computers that has emerged as the trillion-dollar engine of commerce transforming our economy.

Most recently, Dertouzos was an advocate for what he calls “human-centric computing”-a radical transformation of the way we use computers. As part of this effort, LCS recently unveiled the $50 million Oxygen project, intended to make computers easier to use and as natural a part of our environment as the air we breathe.

Born in Athens, Greece, Dertouzos came to the U.S. as a Fulbright Scholar. Following a Ph.D. from MIT in 1964, he joined the MIT faculty, where he is now Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.
In 1968 Dertouzos founded Computek Inc. to manufacture and market one of the earliest graphical display terminals, based on one of his patents. He soon became the Chairman of the Board of Computek, where he introduced the first intelligent terminals in the early 1970′s. He subsequently sold the company when he became Director of LCS. Since that time, Dertouzos has been involved in several high-tech start-ups, including Picture Tel and RSA. In his consulting activities for companies such as Siemens Nixdorf, UPS, and BASF he has advanced business and Information Technology strategies.

During the Carter Administration, Dertouzos chaired a White House advisory group that redesigned the White House Information Systems. In February of 1995, he represented the U.S. as a member of the U.S. delegation led by Vice President Al Gore to the G7 Conference on the Information Society. In 1998 he was co-chairman of the World Economic Forum on the Network Society in Davos, Switzerland.

Dertouzos was a dual citizen of the U.S. and the E.U. He worked extensively with the European Commission, in particular as a frequent keynote speaker on ESPRIT and other EC technology programs. For several years he was an adviser to the Prime Minister of Greece, as well as to other governments.

Dertouzos was a member of the United States National Academy of Engineering and the Athens Academy of Arts and Sciences. He held an honorary doctorate from the University of Athens, and he received the B.J. Thompson Award (best paper) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Terman Award (best educator) of the American Society for Engineering Education. He was a member of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, and was honored by the Hellenic Republic as Commander of Greece’s Legion of Honor.

Dertouzos is the author/co-author of seven books, including MADE IN AMERICA: Regaining the Productive Edge (MIT Press, 1989), with over 300,000 copies in print, and WHAT WILL BE: How the New World of Information Will Change Our Lives (HarperCollins, 1997), which has been translated into thirteen languages.

See essays by this author:
Finishing the Unfinished Revolution
Kurzweil vs. Dertouzos