Slashdot today has something pointing to Larry Osterman’s weblog where he tells the story of my ex-roommate David Weise’s career, much of which has been spent at Microsoft. David is generally credited with almost single-handedly making Windows a viable product, when in 1988 he figured out how to get Windows to run on the 286 processor in “protected mode”, something people thought couldn’t be done. At the time Microsoft was planning on abandoning Windows and moving to IBM’s OS/2, but David’s work changed everything.
Osterman gets some things wrong. David, Chuck Whitmer and Nathan Myhrvold were fellow physics graduate students and my roommates at Princeton, not at MIT (for more about Nathan, see an earlier posting). David was in biophysics, Chuck was a student of Steve Adler’s doing lattice gauge theory, and Nathan worked with Malcolm Perry on quantum gravity. It is true that David and Chuck were associated with the MIT blackjack team (this was the early eighties, just after casinos opened in Atlantic City, not the 70s as Osterman has it). There was a lot of practicing of card counting techniques and computer simulation of non-randomness in shuffles going on in our apartment during those days, although I never got really involved in it myself.
After getting their Ph.Ds, Nathan, Chuck and David (together with Nathan’s brother Cameron) founded a software company called Dynamical Systems Research in Oakland, which they ended up selling (along with themselves) to Microsoft. They all ended up getting obscenely rich, with Chuck retiring quite a while ago, Nathan leaving more recently, and finally David is now leaving to work in molecular biology.