When Alfred Aho and Jeffrey Ullman met while in line to register on their first day at Princeton University in 1963, computer science was still a new world.
Using a computer requires an esoteric skill set that is often reserved for trained engineers and mathematicians. But today, thanks in part to the work of Dr. Aho and Dr. Ullman, practically anyone can use a computer and program it to perform new tasks.
On Wednesday, the Computer Computing Association, the world’s largest association of computer professionals, said Dr. Aho and Dr. Ullman will receive this year’s Turing Award for their work on concepts Essential as the foundation for computer programming languages. Awarded in 1966 and commonly known as the Nobel Prize for the Computer, the Turing Prize comes with a $ 1 million prize, the two scientists and longtime friends share.
Dr. Aho and Dr. Ullman have helped refine one of the key components of a computer: the “compiler” takes human-written software programs and turns them into something the computer can understand. .
Over the past 5 decades, computer scientists have built increasingly intuitive programming languages that help people create software for desktops, laptops, smartphones, cars, and even supercomputers are getting easier. The compilers ensure that these languages are efficiently translated into languages and zeros that are understood by a computer.
“Without their work,” said Krysta Svore, a researcher at Microsoft who studied with Mr. Aho at Columbia University where he is the chair of computer science. you can write apps for your phone. “We won’t have the cars we drive these days.”
Researchers have also written numerous textbooks and taught generations of students as they determine how developing computer software differs from electrical or mathematical engineering.
“Their fingerprints are everywhere,” said Graydon Hoare, creator of the programming language Rust. He added that two of Dr. Ullman’s books were on the shelf beside him.
After leaving Princeton, both Dr. Aho, Canadian, 79 and Dr. Ullman, a native New Yorker, 78 years old, joined Bell Labs’ New Jersey headquarters, then one of the rooms. the world’s leading research experiment.
Dr. Ullman, currently an emeritus professor at Stanford University, is also a man who has been instrumental in developing languages and concepts that drive databases, software that stores and retrieves essential information for all things range from Google search engines to applications used by office workers around the globe.
The ideas raised by Dr. Aho and Dr. Ullman are even part of the computer of the future. At Microsoft, Dr. Svore is working on a quantum computer, an experimental machine based on the strange behavior shown by things like strange electrons or metals that are cooled down below zero by several hundred degrees.
Quantum computers are based on a completely different type of physical behavior from traditional computers. But as they create programming languages for these machines, Dr. Svore and her colleagues are continuing to study the work of the latest Turing winners.
“We are building on similar techniques,” she said.