Dave Cutler

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For other people named Dave Cutler, see Dave Cutler (disambiguation).
Dave Cutler
DavidCutler WindowsAzure.JPG
Cutler at work on Microsoft Azure
Born (1942-03-13) March 13, 1942 (age 75)
Lansing, Michigan, USA
Occupation Senior Technical Fellow at Microsoft

David Neil "Dave" Cutler, Sr. (born March 13, 1942) is an American software engineer, designer and developer of several operating systems including Windows NT at Microsoft and RSX-11M, VMS and VAXELN at Digital Equipment Corporation.[1]

Personal history

David Cutler was born in Lansing, Michigan and grew up in DeWitt, Michigan. After graduating from Olivet College in 1965, Cutler went to work for DuPont. Cutler's first exposure to computers came when he was tasked to perform a computer simulations model for one of DuPont's customers using IBM's GPSS-3 language on an IBM model 7044.[2] This work led to an interest in how computers worked and their operating systems. Cutler left DuPont to pursue that interest beginning with Digital Equipment Corporation.

Cutler holds over 20 patents and is an affiliate professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of Washington.[3]

Cutler is also an avid auto racing driver. He has previously competed in the Atlantic Championship from 1996 to 2002, scoring a career best of 8th on the Milwaukee Mile in 2000.[4]

Cutler is a member of Adelphic Alpha Pi fraternity at Olivet College.


In April 1975, Digital began a hardware project, code-named Star, to design a 32-bit virtual address extension to its PDP-11. In June 1975, Cutler, together with Dick Hustvedt and Peter Lipman, were appointed the technical project leaders for the software project, code-named Starlet, to develop a totally new operating system for the Star family of processors. These two projects were tightly integrated from the beginning. The three technical leaders of the Starlet project together with three technical leaders of the Star project formed the "Blue Ribbon Committee" at Digital who produced the fifth design evolution for the programs. The design featured simplifications to the memory management and process scheduling schemes of the earlier proposals and the architecture was accepted. The Star and Starlet projects culminated in the development of the VAX-11/780 superminicomputer and the VAX/VMS operating system, respectively.

Attitude towards Unix

Cutler is also known for his disdain for all things Unix. His sardonic nature showed through in the VMS v Unix debates at DEC in the early 1980s. He expressed his low opinion of the Unix process input/output model by reciting "Get a byte, get a byte, get a byte byte byte" to the tune of the finale of Rossini's William Tell Overture.[citation needed]

Prism and Mica projects

Digital began working on a new CPU using RISC design principles in 1986 and Cutler, who was then working in DEC's DECwest facility in Bellevue, Washington, was selected to head Prism, a project to develop the company’s RISC machine. Its operating system, code named Mica, was to embody the next generation of design principles and have a compatibility layer for Unix and VMS. The RISC machine was to be based on ECL technology, and was one of three ECL projects Digital was undertaking at the time.

Funding the R&D costs of multiple ECL projects yielding products that would ultimately compete against each other was a strain. Of the three ECL projects, the VAX 9000 was the only one that was directly commercialized. Primarily because of the early successes of the PMAX advanced development project and the need for differing business models, Prism was canceled in 1988 in favor of PMAX.

Prism later surfaced as the basis of DEC's Alpha family of computer systems.

Windows NT

Cutler left Digital for Microsoft in October 1988 and led the development of Windows NT. Later, he worked on targeting Windows NT to Digital's 64-bit Alpha architecture (itself based on the Prism design),[citation needed] then on Windows 2000. After the demise of Windows on Alpha (and the demise of DEC), Cutler was instrumental in porting Windows to AMD's new 64-bit AMD64 architecture. He was officially involved with the Windows XP Pro 64-bit and Windows Server 2003 SP1 64-bit releases. He moved to working on Microsoft's Live Platform in August 2006. Dave Cutler was awarded the prestigious status of Senior Technical Fellow at Microsoft.

Windows Azure

At the 2008 Professional Developers Conference, Microsoft announced Azure Services Platform, a cloud-based operating system which Microsoft is developing. During the conference keynote, Cutler was mentioned as a lead developer on the project, along with Amitabh Srivastava.[5]


As of January 2012, a spokesperson for Microsoft has confirmed that Cutler is no longer working on Windows Azure, and has since joined the Xbox team.[6] No further information was provided as to what Cutler's role was, nor what he was working on within the team.

In May 2013, Microsoft announced the Xbox One console, and Cutler was mentioned as having worked in the development of host OS portion of the system running inside the new gaming device. Apparently Cutler's work was focused in creating an optimized version of Microsoft's Hyper-V Host OS specifically designed for Xbox One.[7]


  • Recognized among 2007 National Medal of Technology and Innovation Laureates, announced August 25, 2008 and which were awarded on September 29 in a White House ceremony.[8][9]
  • Honored as a Computer History Museum Fellow[10] on April 16, 2016 in a ceremony at the Museum in Mountain View, California.


  1. ^ "2007 Microsoft Technical Recognition Award". Microsoft. Retrieved July 8, 2011. Senior Technical Fellow David Cutler—recipient of the inaugural Microsoft Technical Recognition Award for Career Achievement—is the key technical brain behind the 50 million lines of code constituting Microsoft's flagship product, the Windows operating system. 
  2. ^ "The engineer's engineer: Computer industry luminaries salute Dave Cutler's five-decade-long quest for quality". News Center. Microsoft. Retrieved 2016-04-18. 
  3. ^ "David Cutler at the University of Washington". The University of Washington. Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  4. ^ "The Leading Champ Car Atlantic Site on the Net". champcaratlantic.com. Retrieved 2012-05-03. [permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "Professional Developers Conference 2008 Day 1 Keynote: Ray Ozzie, Amitabh Srivastava, Bob Muglia, Dave Thompson". News center. Microsoft. October 27, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-29. 
  6. ^ "Microsoft confirms Dave Cutler, father of Windows NT, now working on Xbox". ZDNet. CBS Interactive. 
  7. ^ "The engineer's engineer: Computer industry luminaries salute Dave Cutler's five-decade-long quest for quality | News Center". news.microsoft.com. Retrieved 2016-08-04. 
  8. ^ "U.S. Commerce Secretary Gutierrez Announces Technology Council". Uspto.gov. Retrieved 2012-05-03. 
  9. ^ "President Bush Presents 2007 National Medals of Science and Technology and Innovation". Georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. 2008-09-29. Retrieved 2012-05-03. 
  10. ^ "Fellow Awards | Computer History Museum". www.computerhistory.org. Retrieved 2016-04-18. 


  • Zachary, G. Pascal (1994). Showstopper! The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft. Warner Books. ISBN 0-02-935671-7. 

External links

  • Dave Cutler video on his career as part of his Computer History Museum Fellow award on YouTube
  • Dave Cutler video on 64 bit computing at AMD Site at the Wayback Machine (archived February 23, 2006)
  • Dave Cutler race driving career statistics
  • David Cutler, Microsoft Technical Fellow at the Wayback Machine (archived October 7, 2010)
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