Photo of David N. Cutler

David N. Cutler

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Computer Science

For having envisioned, designed and implemented world standards for real-time, personal and server-based operating systems for over 30 years, carrying these projects from conception through design, engineering and production for Digital Equipment Corporation’s RSX-11 and VAX/VMS and for Microsoft’s Windows NT-based computer operating systems, and for his fundamental contributions to computer architecture, compilers, operating systems and software engineering.

David Cutler on his greatest influence, Gordon Bell

David Cutler was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1942 where he attended Olivet College. After graduating, Cutler went on to work for DuPont and during his work for a major client, IBM, he discovered a serious passion for operating systems which would define the course of his career.

Cutler left DuPont to join Digital Equipment Corporation on the forefront of the computer industry and became a technical leader in developing the VMS operating system for their VAX computer line, released in 1977. VMS commercialized many features now considered standard in high-performance servers and more than thirty years after its creation is still in use in stock exchanges, banks, and even Amazon.

Operating systems are considered by many software engineers to be the pinnacle of complexity and difficulty in terms of software design and one chronicler even referred to Cutler’s work on VMS as “a lifetime achievement”—but he was just getting started.

In 1988, joined Microsoft and became chief architect over the team that would create Windows NT, the kernel at the heart of all modern releases of Windows. There are essentially only two foundational operating systems used in the world today, Unix, on which Apple’s OSX and Linux’s many variants are based, and NT.

By Casey Samulski