Microsoft News Center is featuring one of the legends of computing today with a long (and deservedly so) post on Dave Cutler, a Microsoft Senior Technical fellow and the force behind the 32 bit VAX computers at DEC, Microsoft’s NT operating system, Azure, and most recently the hypervisor in Xbox One that allows the Xbox to run apps, and Windows to run Xbox games.
Cutler came to Microsoft on Halloween day, 1988, after moving in 1982 to Seattle to work on projects for DEC. After his Prism project at DEC was killed, Cutler left that company, and wooed by Bill Gates, moved operations from Bellevue Wa. to Redmond to work on Windows NT.
Much of that work is detailed in a fascinating look at the early years of Microsoft in Showstopper!, a 1994 book that tells the story of NT, but also introduces a number of important players like David Treadwell, Soma Somasegar, and Nathan Myhrvold, along with interesting insights into Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and of course Cutler himself. If you’re at all interested in Microsoft, it’s well worth the read (and only a penny at Amazon!)
Next up for Cutler was what was to become Azure, as Ray Ozzie and Amitabh Srivastava convinced him to delay his planned retirement to work on a project that was “different. This could change the world,” Srivastava told Cutler, and after visiting every Microsoft team running cloud services from MSN to Hotmail to Xbox Live, Cutler was convinced and Azure became what it is today.
Cutler then took his work on the hypervisor to Xbox, as Boyd Multerer convinced Cutler to come to what was then Entertainment and Devices to work on a new generation of Xbox:
“It was probably the scariest meeting of my life,” Multerer said, “just the anticipation of it.”
Cutler has been known as a sometimes intimidating presence, defined by his fanaticism about writing quality code and setting a high bar for his co-workers. Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft CTO and co-founder of Intellectual Ventures, compared him to Brad Pitt’s character in Inglourious Basterds as a tough but loyalty inspiring character.
The News Center feature (along with Showstopper!) are fascinating reads about one of the most fascinating men in modern computing history, both at Microsoft and beyond. Be sure to check them out.