John Whar­ton

Sep 21, 1954 - Nov 14, 2018

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - LIFE TRIBUTES -

John Har­ri­son Whar­ton was a pop­u­lar and in­flu­en­tial Sil­i­con Val­ley en­gi­neer who was renowned for his skills in re­verse en­gi­neer­ing. John was the in­struc­tion set ar­chi­tect for the MCS-51, aka the 8051, In­tel’s high­est vol­ume mi­cro­pro­ces­sor. He was thus the cre­ator of one of the world’s most pop­u­lar com­puter com­mand sets.

John at­tended Yale Univer­sity and then North­west­ern Univer­sity, and grad­u­ated in 1977 with a BS in EE and MS in Com­puter Sci­ence. Tom Rolan­der hired him at In­tel where he worked for 5 years be­fore start­ing his Ap­pli­ca­tions Re­search con­sul­tancy. John was a found­ing mem­ber of the ed­i­to­rial board of Mi­cro­pro­ces­sor Re­port, an in­flu­en­tial in­dus­try jour­nal. With Den­nis Al­li­son, he co­or­di­nated Stan­ford Univer­sity’s EE380 Col­lo­quium from 1989-2004.

In 1980, John be­gan at­tend­ing the Asilo­mar Mi­cro­com­puter Work­shop (AMW) an­nu­ally, and that year he spoke with Carver Mead, Jim Clark, Dave Pat­ter­son and Gary Kil­dall. He first chaired an AMW ses­sion in 1983, and was its Gen­eral Chair from 1985-1997 and Pro­gram Chair from 19992017. John’s in­tel­lect and gre­gar­i­ous style was hugely in­flu­en­tial on AMW, and it re­mains an im­por­tant fo­rum for off-the-record dis­cus­sion of new tech­nolo­gies and their broader con­se­quences.

One of John’s pur­suits in 1994 was the novel idea of tak­ing group pho­tos from space via a for­mer Soviet spy satel­lite. In 1996 he ap­peared in a no­to­ri­ous shower scene on Late Night with David Let­ter­man. A 1999 New York Times story de­scribed John as hav­ing “a Zelig-like pres­ence”. His droll hu­mor will be missed, and his friends will al­ways re­mem­ber him as “the heart of the Asilo­mar Work­shop.”

John is sur­vived by his brother Robert of Olympia, WA and ex-wife Sandy Og­den of Sun­ny­vale. There will be an event to cel­e­brate John’s rich le­gacy at Alpine Inn in Por­tola Val­ley, CA, at 2pm, with a pro­gram at 3pm, on Satur­day, De­cem­ber 8. More info is at www. JohnHWhar­ton.com.

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