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Butler Lampson

Butler W. Lampson is a computer scientist and ACM Turing Award winner who, while best known for his pioneering work on the Xerox Alto workstation, has also been influential in the field of computer security.

Lampson received a Bachelor's degree in physics from Harvard University in 1964 and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1967. While at Berkeley, Lampson worked on the Genie project, whose goal was to produce a time-sharing operating system that would run on lower-cost hardware than that required by MIT's [[SystemsMultics][Compatible Time Sharing System]. Notably, Lampson's Ph.D. thesis, "Scheduling and Protection in an Interactive Multiprocess System," was one of the first dissertations covering the issues of computer security, a result of his work on Genie and a related project, the CAL Time Sharing System, which was the first capability?-based time sharing system to see active production use.(1) (2)

After a stint at Berkeley Computer Corporation, a short-lived venture that aimed to build on and commercialize the technologies developed by the Genie project, Lampson joined Xerox's famed Palo Alto Research Center. While his work there was primarily focused on interactive personal computing, he published two highly influential security-related papers. Not long after his arrival in 1971, Lampson introduced the concept of access-control matrices in light of the failings of the capability model on which he had worked previously(3)(4). Then, in 1973, after hearing about the then-new concept of multi-level security, he published "Notes on the Confinement Problem" that was the first published treatment of the problem of covert channels in multi-user operating systems.(5)

While at PARC Lampson was also a principal architect of the Euclid programming language, a DARPA-funded project designed with the aim of producing programs whose behavior could be more easily be verified by formal methods (sometimes known as "high assurance"). In 1984, following the fragmentation of the core team at Xerox PARC, Lampson left Xerox for DEC's Systems Research Center. During his time at DEC, Lampson worked on DESNC, a hardware device for encryption of ethernet traffic, as well as security technologies for distributed systems.(6)

Lampson departed DEC for Microsoft in 1995, spending "a sizeable chunk of [his] time on various aspects of [security]." (7) These aspects included mechanisms for combating content piracy, and the Microsoft Palladium high-assurance stack. Today, Lampson works with Microsoft Research in the fields of security, privacy and fault tolerance and (to quote the biography on his Microsoft web page) "kibitzing in systems, networking, and other areas." (8)

Additional Resources:

Supported by the National Science Foundation CNS--TC 1116862 "Building an Infrastructure for Computer Security History."


1 : http://www.textfiles.com/bitsavers/pdf/univOfCalBerkeley/Cal_TSS_Overview_Oct69.pdf An Overview of the CAL Time Sharing System

2 , 6 : Oral history interview with Butler Lampson

3 : http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=775265.775268

4 : Earl Boebert's oral history explains interactions with Lampson and the matrix concept.

5 : http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=362389

7 : Oral history interview with Butler Lampson.

8 : Lampson's page at Microsoft: "Short Bio" section

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