IBM's Grady Booch Named IEEE-CS Computer Pioneer

Grady Booch, co-author of the Unified Modeling Language (UML), has been awarded the IEEE Computer Society Computer Pioneer Award.

IBM big data

The IEEE Computer Society has selected Grady Booch, chief scientist for software engineering at IBM Research, to receive the society's 2016 Computer Pioneer Award for his work in object modeling and in co-authoring the Unified Modeling Language (UML).

"This award is given for significant contributions to early concepts and developments in the electronic computer field, which have clearly advanced the state-of-the-art in computing," IEEE said in a statement.

As one of the "Three Amigos," Booch developed UML with Ivar Jacobson and James Rumbaugh at Rational Software in the 1990s. The trio created UML to provide a standard way to visualize the design of a system. In 1997, the Object Management Group adopted UML as a standard, and in 2005, the International Organization for Standardization published UML as an ISO standard.

"The UML," as Booch refers to it, even found its way into popular culture back in 2007 when on an episode of CBS' then popular crime drama "NUMB3RS," the lead character, a mathematician/crime fighting consultant to the FBI uses UML to solve a crime. CBS reached out to Booch after the show aired.

"Out of the blue, I received an email from Darcy Jouan, husband of Christina Davis, a senior vice president at CBS," Booch said in a blog post about the show's use of UML. "In a wonderful random act of kindness, Darcy and Christine just sent me a copy of the script, signed by all the cast members."

However, UML was not universally accepted. Many saw it as too complex, others said it was imprecise. Noted software engineer Martin Fowler once referred to UML as the Unwanted Modeling Language because of backlash over revisions to the language.

Microsoft developers also pushed back on UML when the company began to advance its modeling strategy. However, encouraged by Microsoft co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates, the company eventually adopted UML.

Meanwhile, in response to being named a computer pioneer, Booch told eWEEK, "I'm deeply humbled by being on a list of people, many of whom are my heroes."

Booch is known internationally for his work in software architecture, software engineering and collaborative development environments.

He served as chief scientist of Rational Software Corp. from its founding in 1981 and through its acquisition by IBM in 2003. In those early days, Rational sold systems and software to support developers using the Ada programming language. In addition to UML, Booch wrote one of the more popular books on programming in Ada.

In addition, Booch was a founding member of the Agile Alliance, and a founding member of the Hillside Group. Booch has published six books and several hundred technical articles, including an ongoing column for IEEE Software.

Booch earned his bachelor's degree in 1977 from the United States Air Force Academy and a master's degree in electrical engineering in 1979 from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

He likes to tell the story of how he became acquainted with programming. As a kid, Booch said he hounded a salesman at the local IBM sales office near his home until the guy took pity on him and gave him a Fortran programming manual. He said he could tell the salesman never expected to hear from him again, but Booch returned the following week saying he'd read the book and had written a program. Impressed, the salesman found time for Booch to use an IBM 1130 computer on weekends and evenings.

At IBM, as chief scientist for software engineering and Watson/M at IBM Research, Booch has been deeply involved in IBM's cognitive systems strategy for Watson and systems that extend Watson. He led the IBM Global Technology Outlook topic on cognitive systems, and now continues to work with the Watson Group to further advance the science and the practice of cognitive systems.

Lately, in addition to his work at IBM, Booch has been involved in efforts to enlighten folks about the history of computing and its impact on society. Booch has been working on a project called Computing: The Human Experience to bring computing into the lives of people all over the world. This week, Booch will deliver a lecture on the history and future of software at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.