Portrait of Gordon Bell

Gordon Bell

Emeritus Researcher


Gordon Bell joined Microsoft Research in 1995, working on Telepresence “being there, while being here, at possibly some later time.” This work included multimedia in the home. In 1999, he began work on what became the project to capture all of life’s bits digitally.

MyLifeBits is a personal transaction processing database for everything. Gordon has captured a lifetime’s worth of articles, books, CDs, letters, memos, papers, photos, presentations, music, home movies, and videotaped lectures. He also has in his collection recordings of phone calls, IM transcripts, years of email, web browsing, and daily activities captured by the SenseCam. One of the challenges of MyLifeBits has been to build rich applications to encourage people to take their personal memorabilia out of the shoebox and store them digitally for all kinds of future usage including immortality. Gordon co-authored a book with Jim Gemmell called Total Recall. Released in 2009, the book is a culmination of their thoughts and experiences during the project.

Gordon’s previous roles have been vice president of research and development at Digital Equipment Corporation (1960-1983) that included the design of the first minicomputers and time-shared computers; professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University (1966-72); founding assistant director of the National Science Foundation’s Computing and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE) Directorate (1986-1988); panel chair of the National Research and Education Network (NREN) for creating the Internet (1987-1988); advisor/investor to 100+ High Tech start-up companies; and a founding trustee of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California (successor to The Computer Museum, Boston. In 1988, he established the ACM Gordon Bell Prize for parallelism; in 2015, David Cutler (Microsoft) and Bell established the ACM Cutler Bell Prizes for high school students. He is a member of the ACM, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, IEEE, NAE, NAS, and 1991 National Medal of Technology medalist.

His interests include extreme lifelogging, digital lives, preserving everything in cyberspace, and cloud computing, including High Performance Computers as a new (post 2000) computer class or platform characterized by Bell’s Law. He proselytizes Jim Gray’s Fourth Paradigm of Science.