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Seminar John Mashey

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Seminar by Dr. John Mashey

  • Date 17 Oct 2018
  • Time 4:30pm – 5:30pm
  • Category Seminar

Big Data Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow


The general idea of Big Data is hardly new, although it has existed under many names. Of course, it is a moving target, since what once was Big Data can now be done on a smartphone. In 2013, New York Times reporter Steve Lohr published “The Origins of ‘Big Data’: An Etymological Detective Story,” attributing that phrase to John Mashey, who started using it in the early 1990s and made it a marketing theme at Silicon Graphics. In this talk John will explore the past of Big Data, describe its present state, and speculate on the future.

The first and largest part of the talk reviews the long history of Big Data, starting with Hollerith machines and punch cards, the Big Data of the 1890s. Insights for the future can be gained by studying the evolution since then of hardware, software and applications, as well as never-ending, but always-changing “stack wars.”

The second part examines key elements of current Big Data applications and relates them to their historical precursors.

Finally, the third part discusses challenges of the near-term future, then ends 5,000 years from now, quoting an apt science-fiction book.


John is a US computer scientist, whose resume includes Bell Labs, Convergent Technologies, MIPS Computer Systems, and Silicon Graphics. Many of the wide variety of scientists he has worked with have used software or hardware he helped create. John holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Pennsylvania State University. He worked on the PWB/UNIX operating system at Bell Labs, authoring the PWB shell, also known as the “Mashey Shell.” He contributed to the UNIX community starting in 1973. He has made contributions to rigorous, disciplined systems evaluation, particularly the SPEC benchmark suite. He was one of the designers of the MIPS R4000, the first commercial 64-bit microprocessor and an evangelist for 64-bit computing, back when many thought that premature.

John is a Trustee of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. In 2012, he received the USENIX “Flame” Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the UNIX community since its early days. He has given 500+ public talks on topics of software engineering, RISC design, performance benchmarking, supercomputing and Silicon Valley business.

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