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Computer Science Greats

The U’s computer science department was still brand new when its students and faculty began transforming the world of computing. Their groundbreaking creations in interactive computing, 3D objects, and animation—decades before Toy Story—ignited a revolution that would spawn computer simulations, medical imaging, CGI movies, video games, virtual reality, and much more. In March 2023, these computer science pioneers reunited on the U campus to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the U’s Kahlert School of Computing. They talked about the culture of the department, their trailblazing work, and how innovation happens.

“What made me proud was that almost all the reviews only had one or two lines saying it was done on a computer. The focus wasn’t on the technology—it was on the story. That was what it meant to have arrived.”

Ed Catmull PhD’74, co-founder of Pixar, on the critical reception of Toy Story

“I thought, since the world communicates with documents, we need to design a program that will print any document you can think of, in any typeface, orientation, or resolution, and that would bring all of publishing into the digital world.”

John Warnock PhD’69, co-founder of Adobe, on developing the PDF

John Warnock passed away at 82 on Aug. 21, 2023. Read a full profile about his life and impact.

“There was a paper that had just come out in 1968 written by one Ivan Sutherland. The title was ‘A head-mounted three-dimensional display.’ It blew my mind…. Here was a three-dimensional world in the room with you. [From then on] I didn’t want to do anything else.”

Henry Fuchs PhD’75, innovator in 3D medical imaging and virtual environments, on the world’s first virtual reality headset

“The work I was doing was the least of what was going on at Utah… I thought of this environment as a bountiful field of grain just giving rise to one idea after another.”

Alan Kay PhD’69, who helped create the personal computer and laptops, on the U’s computer science department

“It’s harder to forget what you’re taught than to learn new stuff. And that’s the value of students. They don’t know what can’t be done, so they just go ahead and do it.”

Ivan Sutherland, former U professor and inventor of the breakthrough interactive graphics program Sketchpad, on researching the unknown


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  1. I am a graduate alumni of the 1994 CS Program
    Great experience and very challenging and satisfying Curriculum. Highly recommended

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