Video: Thompson awarded the Japan Prize in California

7/8/2011 – In April Ken Thompson, the father of Unix and the computer language C, was due to receive the Japan Prize in Tokyo. Unfortunately the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami made that impossible. In May the prize was awarded at Google headquarters in California. The ceremony was taped and Ken spoke to the audience. See if you can lead a meaningful life without having heard his alligator story.

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Ken Thompson awarded the Japan Prize in California

The Japan Prize, worth $600,000, is the most prestigious award in the country and often referred to as the "Asian Nobel Prize". It is given for original and outstanding achievements in science and technology. This year it went to two American scientists who forty years ago created the Unix operating system and the computer language C. One of them, Ken Thompson, is also a computer chess pioneer.

Ken was supposed to receive the award in April, in the presence of the Emperor, the Empress, and the entire Japanese government. Unfortunately the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami came in the way of that, and so on May 17, 2011 it was given to him by a Japanese delegation at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA. The ceremony was taped and put on YouTube.

After a very interesting introduction by Google Vice President Vinton Cerf, who has been the company's Chief "Internet Evangelist" since September 2005 (Vint is recognized as one of the "fathers of the Internet"), there is a section (from 5 min 20 sec to 13 minutes) on the careers of Dennis Richie and Ken Thompson. This is extracted and given in the third video below.

After that at 13m 30s into the video, the Chairman of the Japan Prize, Prof. Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, speaks about the earthquake and tsunami that hit is country, and then about the reason why Ken Thompson and Dennis Richie were being honored this year. Then Ken is asked to address the audience. This section starts at 26 min 30 sec into the video. If you start the next video it will jump straight to this part and the alligator story.

And here for those who did not find it here is the section on Richie and Thompson, with some utterly charming early pictures. Those with very sharp eyes may spot a ChessBase person in the background in one of the pictures. Send us the time stamp if you spot him in the historical picture.

Previous ChessBase report

Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie win Japan 'Nobel' Prize
26.01.2011 – It is the most prestigious award in Japan, often referred to as the "Asian Nobel Prize". It is given for outstanding achievements in science and technology, and is worth $600,000. This year it goes to two American scientists who forty years ago created the Unix operating system and the computer language C. One of them is also a computer chess pioneer who visited the London Chess Classic.

On a personal note: we visit Ken and his wife Bonnie once a year in San Jose, California. On our last trip we spent some time at his Pacific Ocean house at Sea Ranch, north of San Francisco. The following is actually a family blog, but so many people in the chess world have seen it that we might as well share it with our readers. – Frederic Friedel


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