As a child, Gordon Bell grew up learning from his father through the family’s business Bell Electric. “I started working occasionally for my father when I was around six,” Bell said in an interview in 2007. “The first skill I learned was how to join a plug to a wire.” By eight, he built a motor.
Described as “the Frank Lloyd Wright of computers,” Bell graduated MIT’s master’s program in electrical engineering in 1957, just as the first computers were being invented.
After graduating, Bell spent 23 years at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) where he was the architect of various mini- and time-sharing computers, and was among the first engineers to fashion computers into a network.
As the first and founding Assistant Director of the Computers and Information Science and Engineering directorate of the National Science Foundation, Bell led the initiative to link the world’s supercomputers on a high-speed network—the Internet—transforming the way researchers collaborate and share data.
By Jen Santisi