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October 02, 2004

Radia Perlman at Microsoft Research

Radia Perlman gave a talk in building 113, which houses Microsoft Research, so I went by to listen to her (note to shareholders: I do occasionally do work in between attending talks).

Way back in 1992 I attended a class she gave at Interop on "Theory of Bridges and Routers", a topic about which she knows more than most. The talk last week was more of a reminiscence about her distinguished career. It was part of a lecture series at Microsoft Research that is named for Anita Borg, the founder of the Insitute for Women and Technology who died of brain cancer last year (the institute has now been renamed after Anita Borg; Google also has a scholarship).

Yes, this means that Microsoft now has a Borg lecture series <insert obligatory joke here>.

My father is a mathematician and the scene in the Microsoft Research lecture room at the conclusion of Radia's talk reminded me of the math department lounge at McGill University, where I spent the occasional late afternoon or evening. Some people clustered around the speaker, some yakking about their work, others waiting in line for food, watched over by the ubiquitous secretary with a foreign accent (except they don't call them secretaries at Microsoft).

Radia (who recently moved to Seattle after falling in love with a Microsoftie) spoke about how bridges were a terrible blight on the networks of the world, and everything should be routed instead (in fact, at Interop in 1992, she autographed my copy of Interconnections with the admonition "don't work on non-routable protocols!" after I confessed that I was working on the NT version of Netbeui). Bridges do work, but they don't do optimal routing, and tend to concentrate traffic on certain links. One of her projects is designing a router that has the plug-and-play feature of bridges.

She also harkened back to the days when she designed the spanning-tree algorithm for bridges (despite disliking bridges as a concept, she still helped pull their keisters out of the fire). Along with the algorithm, she also designed an algorhyme (ahh, the good ol' days when people used to submit wacky RFCs).

Speaking of Microsoft Research, this recent slashdot story on Andrew Glassner's book Interactive Storytelling reminded me of a talk that Glassner gave back when he worked at Microsoft Research. It must have been in the 1999-2000 timeframe because I was still in my first stint at Microsoft. Glassner was researching interactive storytelling and one of the things he did was buy the latest video games and play them through to the end. He gave a talk about the Nintendo 64 game "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time" which he had just finished. I remember thinking, nice work if you can get it.

Posted by AdamBa at October 2, 2004 10:51 PM

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