The founder of Inmos and the co-creator of MIME have died • The Register


obituary The IT community has suffered a double loss with the passing of two industry icons.

A post on the Facebook group of former Inmos employees says the company’s founder, Professor Iann Marchant Barron, died aged 85 last month.

The IEEE called Barron “the unique enfant terrible of the British computer industry.” In the words of his son, Marchant Barron:

As The Reg quoted him, writing about the influence of Inmos and the Transputer:

While still a third-year student at Cambridge, Barron worked at Elliott Brothers, where he designed the Elliott 803 computer, one of which you can see working in the National Museum of Computing and a machine that played a central role in the development of the ALGOL programming language.

Later he became an employee, but when the company refused to incorporate some of his ideas, he left and started Computer Technology Limited. His Modular One computer featured an asynchronous symmetric point-to-point bus interconnecting its components and was particularly successful in the space industry.

When one of CTL’s major customers collapsed, Barron left and started Inmos, where he invented the Transputer processor. The transputer’s inter-processor links are built on the interconnect design of the Modular One, and in turn, the transputer protocol led to the IEEE 1355 standard, which originated [PDF] of the SpaceWire network protocol used by NASA, ESA, JAXA and Roscosmos.

RIP, Legend of Ned Freed Standards

Edwin Earl Freed, known to many colleagues as Ned Freed, has died aged just 63. Freed was the author or co-author of a remarkable 50 different RFC documents, but one of them touched the lives of more people than most.

RFC 1341 is the specification for Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME). Although MIME is the standard for allowing emails to contain attachments, it does so much more. It allows emails to contain more than plain ASCII text, and MIME encoding is how web servers describe the contents of files they send to web browsers. As such, it is used billions of times every day.

Freed set up a company called Innosoft to commercialize his work, which was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 2000. He continued his work at Sun and then at Oracle, although this acquisition caused some of his Innosoft colleagues to leave.

Freed suffered from ulcerative colitis for much of his life, which in recent years prevented him from attending conferences, but despite this he continued his work as a negotiator and facilitator of Internet standards through the IETF.

Nathaniel Borenstein, co-author of MIME, wrote a touching tribute to his colleague, who The Reg can’t hope for better. ®


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