Bill Croft

Bill was attracted to computers because they had teletypes, a device he had always admired since seeing one in the LakeCountyPublicLibrary?.

Bill wrote beautiful code. He wrote with the flow. He used every language feature with skill and grace. He made his programs look as if they had been easy to write.

Bill made every statement count. This not only made his programs easy to read, it made them small and fast too. This helped him write some great network code for the PurdueComputingCenter and elsewhere.

He was known to many of his friends as "BC" because we first met him via notes he left advising us of middle-of-the-night changes he made to equipment or software in the PurdueEE PDP-9 Lab. They were all simply signed "--BC".

He was one of a small and exclusive guild of students and staff who enjoyed skulking around campus buildings late at night, hoping to discover cool equipment to play with. He tells of one night finding his way into the attic of the PurdueEE building. All sorts of old and interesting equipment was stored up there, including a huge (room-sized) FaradayCage?. Anyway, in getting up there BC evidently tripped some kind of alarm because he soon was joined by one of the campus cops. While BC knew he could get into SeriousTrouble? for being there without authorization, he decided to brazen it out and boldly confronted the cop with, "can I help you?" The cop demurred, "no..." and left.

BC was one of the most capable software engineers most of us will ever know. But he was remarkable in other ways, too.

At one point he decided he wanted an interactive computer display. This was back when commercial units were new and cost thousands of dollars. He drew out the design using pencil and paper, carefully desk checked it and then wire-wrapped up the entire design. Of course, it worked first time.

At another time, he wanted to broaden his interests and decided to learn piano. But he had no patience for the trite music taught in most introductory lesson books. Instead, he picked out some elaborate Bach keyboard pieces that he liked to listen to and practiced diligently until he got good at them.

Truly an amazing guy.

Every since I worked with Bill at PurdueECN (not the PurdueComputingCenter), I've wondered what happened to him. He completely left computing after making huge contributions. I think he ended up being a Buddhist. If you're still out there, Bill, get in touch with Scott, would you?

Bill's work on networking at PurdueEE landed him a job at SunMicrosystems in the BayArea. He worked there for a while but never was happy.

While Bill was one of the best software engineers many of us will ever know, he was not comfortable with the rest of the process associated with that core task at many companies. On one of his initial projects at Sun, he simply was unable to force himself to write the specification document for the task he had been assigned. Some other project member condescendingly wrote the document for him. After that, BC busted ass to finish all the coding and debugging before the next document milestone was due, leaving his managers to ponder what to do with working code for a project for which the design had not yet been formally "approved." Following a particularly enjoyable vacation, he said returning to Sun felt "like entering a blast furnace" and soon thereafter he quit.

Eventually he ended up working at Stanford, doing some kind of software development under one of the big name CS professors there. He seemed really happy and in his element.

Sometime after that, he purportedly opened some kind of "medical" practice in Palo Alto. It involved Subcutaneous injections of light via low power laser beams. Evidently the procedure was analogous to Acupuncture in that various conditions were treated by injecting light in different pressure points. I couldn't decide if he finally went off the deep end or if he simply figured out the best way to scam those Californians out of their money.


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