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Charles Simonyi

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Title: Charles Simonyi  
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Charles Simonyi

Charles Simonyi
Born (1948-09-10) September 10, 1948
Budapest, Hungary
Nationality Hungarian
Citizenship United States
Occupation Software architect
Known for Hungarian notation, space tourism, style sheet (desktop publishing)
Notable work Microsoft Office
Net worth $1.4 Billion
Space Adventures Tourist
Time in space
26d 14h 27m
Missions Soyuz TMA-10 / TMA-9, Soyuz TMA-14 / TMA-13
Mission insignia

Charles Simonyi (Hungarian: Simonyi Károly, pronounced ; born September 10, 1948), son of Károly Simonyi, is a Hungarian-American computer software executive who, as head of Microsoft's application software group, oversaw the creation of Microsoft's flagship Office suite of applications.[1][2] He now heads his own company, Intentional Software,[1] with the aim of developing and marketing his concept of intentional programming.[3][4][5] In April 2007, aboard Soyuz TMA-10, he became the fifth space tourist and the second Hungarian in space. In March 2009, aboard Soyuz TMA-14, he made a second trip to the International Space Station. His estimated net worth is US$1.4 billion.[6]


  • Biography 1
    • Early life in Hungary 1.1
    • Denmark and USA 1.2
    • Microsoft 1.3
    • Intentional Software 1.4
    • Patents 1.5
    • Philanthropy 1.6
  • Personal life 2
  • Spaceflights 3
    • Radio communication while aboard ISS 3.1
  • In popular culture 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Early life in Hungary

Simonyi was born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of Károly Simonyi, a professor of electrical engineering[7] at the Technical University of Budapest. While in secondary school he worked part-time as a night watchman at a computer laboratory, overseeing a large Soviet Ural II[8] mainframe. He took an interest in computing[9] and learned to program from one of the laboratory's engineers. By the time he left school, he had learned to develop compilers and sold one of these to a government department. He presented a demonstration of his compiler to the members of a Danish computer trade delegation.[9] In 2006 he said when he was young his dream was, “to get out of Hungary, go to the West and be free.”[10]

Denmark and USA

At the age of 17, Simonyi left Hungary on a short-term visa but did not return.[1] He was hired by Denmark's A/S Regnecentralen in 1966 where he worked with Per Brinch Hansen and Peter Kraft on the RC 4000 minicomputer's Real-time Control System,[11] and with Peter Naur on the GIER ALGOL compiler. He subsequently moved to the United States in 1968 to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned his M.S. in Engineering Mathematics & Statistics in 1972 under Butler Lampson.

Simonyi was recruited to Xerox PARC[1] by Butler Lampson during its most productive period, working alongside luminaries such as Alan Kay, Butler Lampson, and Robert Metcalfe on the development of the Xerox Alto, one of the first personal computers. He and Lampson developed Bravo, the first WYSIWYG document preparation program, which became operational in 1974. During this time he received his Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University in 1977 with a dissertation on a software project management technique called "metaprogramming". This approach sought to defeat Brooks' law by scaling programming through a formalization of communication among programmers. Simonyi remained at PARC until 1981.


In 1981, at Metcalfe's suggestion, he visited Word and Excel, as well as Excel's predecessor Multiplan. For the applications, Simonyi pursued a strategy called the "revenue bomb", whereby the product ran on a virtual machine that was ported to each platform. The resulting applications were highly portable, although Microsoft's focus and IBM's standardization on MS-DOS eventually made portability less important.[12] Simonyi introduced to Microsoft the techniques of object-oriented programming that he had learned at Xerox. He developed the Hungarian notation convention[13] for naming variables. These standards were originally part of his doctoral thesis.[13] The Hungarian notation has been widely used inside Microsoft.[14]

Intentional Software

Simonyi remained at Microsoft during its rapid rise in the software industry, becoming one of its highest-ranking developers. He left Microsoft in 2002 to co-found, with business partner Gregor Kiczales, a company called Intentional Software.[15] This company markets the intentional programming concepts Simonyi developed at Microsoft Research.[16] In this approach to software, a programmer first builds a language environment specific to a given problem domain (such as life insurance). Domain experts, aided by the programmer, then describe the program's intended behavior in a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG)-like manner. An automated system uses the program description and the language to generate the final program. Successive changes are only done at the WYSIWYG level.[17]

In 2004, Simonyi received the Wharton Infosys Business Transformation Award for the industry-wide impact of his innovative work in information technology.


Simonyi currently holds 11 patents US patent 6070007  US patent 6665866  US patent 2001037496  WO patent 2004102380  WO patent 2007053833  WO patent 2007076269  EP patent 1923782  JP patent 2008140410  US patent 2010146377  JP patent 2010146583  US patent 2010229092 


Simonyi has been an active philanthropist.

He has funded the establishment of three professorships:

In January 2004, Simonyi created the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, through which Simonyi supports Seattle-area arts, science, and educational programs. As of May 2012, the Fund size was $75 million. Grant recipients have included the Seattle Symphony ($10 million), and the Seattle Public Library ($3 million), the Metropolitan Opera and the Juilliard School.

Personal life

Simonyi is married to Lisa Persdotter, the daughter of a Swedish millionaire. She is 32 years his junior. They were engaged on 8 August 2008 and were married on 22 November 2008 in a private ceremony in Gothenburg, Sweden, attended by their closest friends, among them Bill Gates.[18][19] Their first child, a daughter named Lilian Simonyi, was born in February 2011. [20] The second child, Livia Suzanne Simonyi was born in November 2012.

Simonyi gained United States citizenship in 1982.[21][10]

Simonyi dated Martha Stewart for 15 years until 2008.[22]

Simonyi spends six months per year[23] on his custom-built 233-foot (71 m) long super yacht named Skat.[23]

Simonyi's residence in Medina, Washington, "Villa Simonyi", is a modern house designed by architect Wendell Lovett, where Simonyi displays his collection of paintings by Roy Lichtenstein and Victor Vasarely.[24][25][26]


In early 2006, Simonyi expressed interest in becoming a space tourist and signed agreements with the space tourism company, Space Adventures, Ltd., for a ten-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

In August 2006, he passed a pre-qualification medical exam by the Russian Federal Space Agency, called the State Medical Commission (GMK). He started training at Star City in September 2006.[2]

He launched on April 7, 2007 (GMT),[27] on board Soyuz TMA-10. He shared a ride with two Russian cosmonauts to the International Space Station,[8] and returned aboard Soyuz TMA-9, scheduled to depart from the ISS on April 20, 2007.

Upon arrival to the ISS on April 9, 2007 Simonyi said, "It is amazing how it appears from the blackness of the sky. It was very, very dramatic. It was like a big stage set, a fantastic production of some incredible opera or modern play. That's what I was referring to when I said I was blown away."[28]

Simonyi's expected return on April 20, 2007 was delayed by one day due to 'boggy ground'. He returned to Earth on April 21, 2007 along with an American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut.[29]

In October 2008, he booked for a second trip to the ISS through Space Adventures on board Soyuz TMA-14.[30] On March 26, 2009 he returned to space aboard Soyuz TMA-14.[31] He returned to Earth on board Soyuz TMA-13. Along with Soyuz Commander Yuri Lonchakov and Michael Fincke, Simonyi landed in Kazakhstan on April 8, 2009.[32]

Radio communication while aboard ISS

Charles Simonyi is a licensed amateur radio operator with the call sign KE7KDP, and planned to contact a number of schools while on his flight on the International Space Station using amateur radio for the communication with those schools. On April 11, 2007 the American Radio Relay League reported that Simonyi was already making ham radio contacts from space.[33]

One of the schools Simonyi contacted was Cedar Point Elementary in Bristow, Virginia. A telebridge conversation was held on Tuesday, April 17, 2007. On board with him were Oleg Kotov and Fyodor Yurchikhin.[34] On March 30, 2009 he held a phone conversation with students at the Girls' Middle School in Mountain View, CA, USA in which he said that one of the most surprising things about traveling to space was that upon returning to earth the air feels very thick, very heavy, like "breathing Pepto-Bismol." He also stated that talking with the students from the school "made his day."

Simonyi used his Hungarian call sign HA5SIK[35] when he contacted 25 radio amateurs from Hungary in a record attempt on April 12. He contacted former and current students of Tivadar Puskás Polytechnic, Budapest on April 13.[35]

Simonyi supports The Museum of Flight in Seattle, funding the Space Gallery housing the NASA Shuttle Trainer and many space artifacts.

In popular culture

Simonyi was portrayed by actor Brian Lester in the TV film Pirates of Silicon Valley.[36]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Lohr, Steve (2002-09-17). "A Microsoft Pioneer Leaves to Strike Out on His Own".  
  2. ^ a b Nerd' outlines space ambitions"'".  
  3. ^ Simonyi, C. (1999). "The Future is Intentional". Computer 32 (5): 56–57.  
  4. ^ Aitken, W.; Dickens, B.; Kwiatkowski, P.; De Moor, O.; Richter, D.; Simonyi, C. (1998). "Transformation in intentional programming". Proceedings. Fifth International Conference on Software Reuse (Cat. No.98TB100203). pp. 114–123.  
  5. ^ Simonyi, C.; Christerson, M.; Clifford, S. (2006). "Intentional software". Proceedings of the 21st annual ACM SIGPLAN conference on Object-oriented programming systems, languages, and applications - OOPSLA '06. p. 451.  
  6. ^ "The World's Billionaires — No.1324 Charles Simonyi".  
  7. ^  
  8. ^ a b  
  9. ^ a b c Alesso, H. Peter; Craig F. Smith; James Burke (2007). "Charles Simonyi". Connections: Patterns of Discovery.  
  10. ^ a b "From Hungary to the galaxy, Simonyi’s goals always high".  
  11. ^  
  12. ^ Robert Mitchell (2002-12-09). "Microsoft Days: Transforming the Desktop".  
  13. ^ a b Todd Barron (2001). Multiplayer Game Programming.  
  14. ^ "Hungarian Notation". Microsoft Developer Network.  
  15. ^ "CHARLES SIMONYI: President and CEO".  
  16. ^ Charles Simony in Google Scholar
  17. ^ "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Meta".  
  18. ^ Bergfeldt, Carina; Camilla Sundell (November 22, 2008). "Gates vilda festnatt i Göteborg".   (Gates' wild party night in Gothenburg)
  19. ^ Lindwall, Johan T (8 September 2008). "Lisa Persdotter, 28, gifter sig med miljardär".   (Lisa Persdotter, 28, marries billionaire)
  20. ^ Payne, Patti (2012-02-27). "Simonyi and Persdotter baby born".  
  22. ^ "Martha Stewart Still Stewing Over Donald Trump".  
  23. ^ a b Blakeley, Kiri (2006-03-27). "Bigger Than Yours".  
  24. ^ "College of Architecture and Urban Planning Newsletter" ( 
  25. ^  
  26. ^ Seven, Richard (May 16, 2003). "Fresh Angles: The beauty is in the geometric interplay of design and function".  
  27. ^ "American space 'nerd' blasts off".  
  28. ^ "Tourist Talks From Space".  
  29. ^ "Space tourist makes safe return".  
  30. ^ "Software billionaire books 2nd trip to space".  
  31. ^ Harwood, William (2009-03-26). "Russian Rocket Carries Space Tourist".  
  32. ^ "Space Tourist Returns from Space Station".  
  33. ^ "Civilian Space Traveler Already Making Ham Radio Contacts from Space".  
  34. ^ Catchpole, John E. (2008). The International Space Station: Building for the Future. Springer-Praxis books in space exploration.  
  35. ^ a b "Rádiókapcsolat Charles Simonyival (Radio Connection with Charles Simonyi)" (in Hungarian). Természet Világa. 2007-04-12. 
  36. ^ "Pirates of Silicon Valley cast".  

External links

  • NASA biography of Charles Simonyi PDF (20.4 KiB)
  • Charles in Space
  • Charles Simonyi, the benefactor of the Simonyi Professorship at the University of Oxford
  • Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences
  • The Rosetta code: archaeology of the Gier-Algol compiler program (an Intentional Software presentation by Simonyi)
  • Forbes interview, 23 December 2002
  • Oral History of Charles Simonyi PDF (165.58 KiB) - An interview for the Computer History Museum by Grady Booch, 6 February 2008
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