There are four people who deserve most of the credit for having turned me into a compiler writer. First of all, my latin teacher at Cupertino High School, Dorothy Allen. She taught latin in a way that that made formal languages seem completely natural and a nice, elegant simplification of natural languages. Through Phil Wadler, I received my first exposure to computers. Phil and I spent much of our time together through high school and college playing with science and electronics, and working out our philosophy. A wonderfully inspirational class I took from Ken Thompson was the stroke that converted me from a physics major to a computer science major at Berkeley. I find it a coincidence both amazing and somehow proper that Phil and Ken are now working together at Bell Labs. And finally, the person who made me understand that compilers were in my blood was Chuck Prenner, who was at the time also a professor at Berkeley.
Several other people deserve some mention along the way, particularly Dave Patterson, who made me understand computer architecture in a way that was tremendously useful for writing code generators, and my Cross Country coach, Carl Renner, who taught me how to work hard, even if he thought I never got the message. Paul Feyerabend, was to me, as he is to everyone who has ever interacted with him, an inspiration. Susan Graham deserves special discredit for having failed to discourage me despite some pretty heroic efforts on her part.
My maturation as a compiler writer was accompanied by Pete Darnell and Bob Scheulen. Pete and I worked on the DG/L compiler together at Data General and together we figured out how the thing worked, and how things out to be done, and ought not. Each of us went other places to write a whole bunch of compilers. Although we've both gone on to other fields (Pete recently founded Visual Solutions, which makes an excellent visual language for nonlinear dynamic simulations.) we both still are compiler people at our core. Bob started out as competition, working on one of Data General's other compilers, but he came with me to Microsoft where we eventually came to work on different aspects of the same compiler.
My friendship with John Gilmore has had a profound effect on my career. John joined the languages group at Data General to help write an APL system, and was in an office across the hall from Pete and me. For a few months I shared a house with him in Northboro. I think it may have been his hot chocolate at the Fester that did the damage. A few months after he moved to San Francisco, he called to tell me about a little company in the Seattle area that was looking for a compiler guy for a new Unix group. I'd heard of this company and was a little interested, and the two of us flew up to interview and spend a few days touring Seattle and driving around the Olympic Pennisula. I took the job at the Seattle area startup, which was called Microsoft, while John went to another startup, Sun Microsystems.