Broadcom Engineer Sophie Wilson Named Computer History Museum 2012 Fellow

Computer History MuseumEach year, a “who’s who” of the technology world assembles in Silicon Valley at  The Computer History Museum to honor industry leaders who have forever changed the world with their accomplishments.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based museum’s annual Fellows award, which has grown to 54 distinguished members, recognizes each honoree’s role in the advancement of computing history and the impact of their contributions.

Sophie Wilson, who is a Director of IC Design in Broadcom’s Cambridge, U.K. office, has been named among the 2012 honorees. Wilson is recognized alongside fellow honoree Steve Furber for their previous work as chief architects of the ARM processor architecture.

Other 2012 Fellows include Edward A. Feigenbaum, pioneer of artificial intelligence and expert systems, and Fernando J. Corbató, pioneer of timesharing and the Multics operating system.

“It’s hard to believe that ARM has shipped over 30 billion CPU cores, and how much the world has changed since we were designing it,” said Wilson, who is also a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and the British Computer Society. “The Computer History Museum recognition of innovation and its exhibitions help people to understand this.”

Wilson is in excellent company.  Computer History Museum Fellows include Gordon Bell, Morris Chang, Douglas Engelbart, Bill Joy and Gordon Moore.

“The Fellows program recognizes the leading figures of the information age—men and women who have shaped the computing revolution and changed the world forever,” said John Hollar, museum president and CEO. “The Fellows are a tremendously distinguished group, and we are honored to celebrate their work and achievements.”

The four 2012 honorees are set to be inducted into the Museum’s Hall of Fellows on April 28. To learn more, read the press release.

About Sophie WilsonBroadcom Engineer Sophie Wilson

Wilson began studying computer science at Cambridge University in 1975. In 1977, she developed an automated cow-feeder for a Harrogate company during vacation, and next summer built, using the 6502 microprocessor, the Acorn System 1, an early 8-bit microcomputer for hobbyists. This was produced commercially by British company Acorn Computers beginning in 1979.

While working at Acorn, she and colleague Steve Furber took less than a week to design and implement the prototype of what became the BBC Microcomputer. Furber and Wilson refined their design over the same summer, with Wilson designing the operating system and writing the BBC BASIC interpreter.

Wilson and Furber then co-designed the 32-bit Acorn RISC Machine processor (ARM-1985). This was used in Acorn’s first general-purpose home computer based on the ARM and Acorn designed support ICs, the Archimedes (1987 and onwards), and then in Apple Computer’s first personal digital assistant, the Newton (1992/93).

Steve Furber’s “ARM System-on-Chip Architecture,” 2nd edition, includes the following acknowledgment: “It is not possible to write a book on the ARM without mentioning Sophie Wilson, whose original instruction set architecture survives, extended but otherwise largely unscathed, to this day.”

Wilson went on to design the Firepath processor and was one of the seven co-founders of Cambridge, U.K.-based Element 14 Inc., which exploited that processor in central office DSL applications. The company was acquired by Broadcom in 2000. 

About the Author

Sarah Murry is a Web editor at Broadcom. She crosses the “t’s” and dots the “i’s” for and Broadcom’s corporate blogs. She earned her reporter chops covering technology, business and trade… More