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Charles Simonyi

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Charles Simonyi (Template:Lang-hu; born September 10, 1948) is a Hungarian-American computer software executive who, as head of Microsoft's application software group, oversaw the creation of Microsoft's flagship office applications.[1][2] He now heads his own company, Intentional Software,[1] with the aim of developing and marketing his concept of intentional programming. 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 billion.[3]


Early life in Hungary

Simonyi was born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of Simonyi Károly, a professor of electrical engineering[4] at Technical University of Budapest. While in high school he worked part-time as a night watchman at a computer laboratory, overseeing a large Soviet Ural II[5] mainframe. He took an interest in computing[6] 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.[6]

Denmark and USA

He was hired by Denmark's A/S Regnecentralen in 1966 and moved to the United States in 1968 to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned his B.S. in Engineering Mathematics & Statistics in 1972.

Simonyi then went to Stanford University[1] for graduate studies and was hired by Xerox PARC[1] during its most productive period, working alongside luminaries such as Alan Kay, Butler Lampson and Robert Metcalfe on the development of the Xerox Alto, the first personal computer. He and Lampson developed Bravo, the first WYSIWYG document preparation program, which became operational in 1974. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford in 1977 with a dissertation on a software project management technique called "metaprogramming". This approach sought to defeat Brooks' law by requiring all programmers to communicate through the manager rather than directly. Simonyi remained at PARC until 1981.


In 1981, at Metcalfe's suggestion, he applied directly to Bill Gates for a job at Microsoft.[6] At the firm, Simonyi oversaw the development of what became its most profitable products, Word and Excel, as well as Excel's predecessor Multiplan. With Multiplan, Simonyi pursued a strategy called the "revenue bomb", whereby the product ran on a virtual machine that was ported to each platform. The resulting application was highly portable, although Simonyi did not foresee the rapid adoption of MS-DOS that made such efforts less important.[7] Simonyi introduced the techniques of object-oriented programming that he had learned at Xerox to Microsoft. He developed the Hungarian notation convention[8] for naming variables. Originally these standards were part of his doctoral thesis.[8] The Hungarian notation has been widely used inside Microsoft.[9]

Own company

Simonyi remained at Microsoft during its rapid rise in the software industry, becoming one of its highest-ranking developers. He left abruptly in 2002 to co-found, with business partner Gregor Kiczales, a company called Intentional Software.[10] This company markets the intentional programming concepts Simonyi developed at Microsoft Research. In this approach to software, a programmer first builds a toolbox 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 toolbox to generate the final program. Successive changes are only done at the WYSIWYG level.[11]

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


Simonyi has been an active philanthropist. In 1995 he established an endowed chair, the Simonyi Professorship of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, first held by the now retired Richard Dawkins. He also established a Charles Simonyi Professor for Innovation in Teaching endowed chair at Stanford University. In January 2004, Simonyi created the $50 million Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, through which Simonyi plans to support Seattle-area arts, science, and educational programs. Initial grant recipients include the Seattle Symphony ($10 million), and the Seattle Public Library ($3 million). In 2005, the Fund donated $25 million to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. In January, 2008 the Simonyi Fund and Bill Gates pledged $20 million and $10 million respectively to the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.

Personal life

As of February 2008, Simonyi had been dating Martha Stewart for 15 years.[12] In 2008, however, the two separated. On August 8, 2008, Simonyi became engaged to a Swedish millionaire's daughter, Lisa Persdotter, who is 32 years his junior. On November 22, 2008, the couple married in a private ceremony in Gothenburg, Sweden attended by their closest friends, among them Bill Gates.[13][14]

Simonyi spends six months a year[15] on his custom-built 233 ft (71 m) long super yacht named Skat.[15]

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.[16][17][18]

Space tourist

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),[19] on board Soyuz TMA-10. He shared a ride with two Russian cosmonauts to the International Space Station,[5] 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."[20]

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

In October 2008, he booked for a second trip to the ISS through Space Adventures on board Soyuz TMA-14.[22] On March 26, 2009 he returned to space aboard Soyuz TMA-14.[23] He returned to Earth on board Soyuz TMA-13. Along with Soyuz Commander Yuri Lonchakov and Michael Fincke he landed in Kazakhstan on April 8, 2009.[24]

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 utilizing 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.[25]

One of the schools Simonyi contacted was Cedar Point Elementary in Bristow, Virginia. A telebridge conversation was held on Tuesday, April 17, 2007. Onboard with him were Oleg Kotov and Fyodor Yurchikhin.[26][citation needed] 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[27] 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.[27]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Lohr, Steve (2002-09-17). "A Microsoft Pioneer Leaves to Strike Out on His Own". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "'Nerd' outlines space ambitions". BBC News. 2006-10-26. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  3. "The World's Billionaires — No.891 Charles Simonyi". Forbes. 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  4. Peter Weibel; Ludwig Múzeum (Budapest, Hungary), Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Museum of Modern Art, Antwerp (2005). Beyond Art: A Third Culture : a Comparative Study in Cultures, Art, and Science in 20th Century Austria and Hungary. Springer. p. 351. ISBN 9783211245620. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Associated Press (2007-04-09). "Soyuz capsule carrying U.S. billionaire Charles Simonyi docks at space station". International Herald Tribune. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2008-07-31. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Alesso, H. Peter; Craig F. Smith, James Burke (2007). "Charles Simonyi". Connections: Patterns of Discovery. Wiley-IEEE. p. 93. ISBN 9780470118818.,M1. 
  7. Robert Mitchell (2002-12-09). "Microsoft Days: Transforming the Desktop". Computerworld.,10801,76413,00.html. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Todd Barron (2001). Multiplayer Game Programming. Thomson Course Technology. p. 220. ISBN 9780761532989. 
  9. "Hungarian Notation". Microsoft Developer Network. Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 2008-07-31. 
  10. "CHARLES SIMONYI: President and CEO". Intentional Software Corporation. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  11. "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Meta". Technology Review. January 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  12. "Martha Stewart Still Stewing Over Donald Trump". People. 2008-01-12.,,20171480,00.html. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  13. Bergfeldt, Carina; Camilla Sundell (November 22, 2008). "Gates vilda festnatt i Göteborg" (in Swedish). Aftonbladet. Retrieved 2009-10-24.  (Gates' wild party night in Gothenburg)
  14. Lindwall, Johan T (8 september 2008). "Lisa Persdotter, 28, gifter sig med miljardär" (in Swedish). Göteborgs-Tidningen. Retrieved 2009-10-25.  (Lisa Persdotter, 28, marries billionaire)
  15. 15.0 15.1 Blakeley, Kiri (2006-03-27). "Bigger Than Yours". Forbes. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  16. "College of Architecture and Urban Planning Newsletter" (PDF). Seattle, Washington: University of Washington. Summer 2003. p. 6. Retrieved 2009-10-24. "Villa Simonyi, the sprawling Medina home Architecture Professor Emeritus Wendell Lovett designed for Charles Simonyi, was the subject of an article in the May 18 edition of Pacific Northwest Magazine." 
  17. Lohr, Steve (2001). Go To: The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Maverick Scientists and Iconoclasts - the Programmers who created the software revolution. New York, NY: Basic Books. p. 1. ISBN 0-465-04226-0. 
  18. Seven, Richard (May 16, 2003). "Fresh Angles: The beauty is in the geometric interplay of design and function". Pacific Northwest Magazine. Retrieved 2009-10-24. "Charles Simonyi, a driving force behind the development of some of Microsoft's most successful software, lives in a sprawling Medina home built over the years in sections as he acquired property from neighbors on both sides. He worked closely with longtime Seattle architect Wendell Lovett to fit idiosyncratic parts into a whole. It is inspired, in part, by one of Simonyi's favorite artists — fellow Hungarian Victor Vasarely, whose optical images have influenced both computer science and architecture." 
  19. "American space 'nerd' blasts off". BBC News. 2007-04-07. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  20. "Tourist Talks From Space". Sky News. 2007-04-11.,,30200-1260128,00.html. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  21. "Space tourist makes safe return". BBC News. 2007-04-21. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  22. "Software billionaire books 2nd trip to space". CBC News (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). 2008-10-02. Retrieved 2008-10-02. 
  23. Harwood, William (2009-03-26). "Russian Rocket Carries Space Tourist". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-26. 
  24. "Space Tourist Returns from Space Station". The New York Times. The Associated Press. 2009-04-08. 
  25. "Civilian Space Traveler Already Making Ham Radio Contacts from Space". American Radio Relay League. 2007-04-11. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  26. Catchpole, John E. (2008). The International Space Station: Building for the Future. Springer-Praxis books in space exploration. Chichester, UK: Praxis Publishing. pp. 274–275. ISBN 978-0-387-78144-0. 
  27. 27.0 27.1 "Rádiókapcsolat Charles Simonyival (Radio Connection with Charles Simonyi)" (in Hungarian). Természet Világa. 2007-04-12. 

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