Charles Edwin Molnar ("Richard F. Lyon" )

Subject: Charles Edwin Molnar
From:    "Richard F. Lyon"  <lyon(at)APPLE.COM>
Date:    Tue, 17 Dec 1996 10:47:29 -0800

Our friend Charlie Molnar, a pioneer in cochlear modeling research, has died. His obituraries focus on his leading role in computing technologies, but most of us will remember him for his work in hearing. Here's from the San Jose Mercury News: Molnar, Charles Edwin - of Sunnyvale, died December 13, 1996 at home, age 61. Beloved husband of Donna Addlcott Molnar. Loving father of Steven and Christopher, Dear 'Opa' of Jennifer, Laura, and Grant. Son of the late Louis Steven Molnar and Mildred Knelly Molnar. Survived by many relatives and friends, who loved, admired, and were guided by him. He was born in New Jersey, graduated from Rutgers University, and received a Doctorate of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, where he founded and directed the Institute for Bio-medical Computing. At the time of his death, he was Director, in the Science Office at Sun Microsystems Laboratories. His body was donated to the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. A large obituary about Charles Molnar and his contributions appeared in the New York Times of 16 December: December 16, 1996 Charles Molnar, 61, Personal Computer Pioneer By JOHN MARKOFF Dr. Charles Edwin Molnar, an electrical engineer who was co-designer of the machine that is widely considered the world's first personal computer, died on Friday at his home in Mountain View, Calif. He was 61. The cause was complications from diabetes, his wife, Donna, said. As a young researcher at the Lincoln Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1962, Molnar -- with another engineer, Wesley A. Clark -- led a team of designers in developing the Laboratory Instrument Computer, or LINC. The machine, which was one of the few unclassified projects at the laboratory in the early 60s, was intended for doctors and medical researchers. Although it would be considered of insignificant power compared to modern personal computers, it was a self-contained machine that had a simple operating system and a small display and stored its programs on a magnetic tape. "At the time it was heresy because everyone else believed in time-sharing computers," said Severo Ornstein, a computer scientist who worked on the original LINC project. The development team, which was financed by the National Institutes of Health, placed 20 copies of an early prototype of the computer in biomedical research laboratories around the country. Later, the machine was produced commercially by the Digital Equipment Corp. From work with the first computers in the late 1950s, engineers had begun to have a vision of their possibilities as they shrank in size and grew in speed. Molnar received his doctorate in 1965 from MIT, where his dissertation topic was the mechanics of the inner ear and how it translates auditory signals into neural responses. After leaving MIT, he established the Institute for Biomedical Computing at Washington University in St. Louis, where he worked from 1965 until 1995, when he became a senior research fellow at Sun Microsystems in California. Molnar earned a worldwide reputation for his work in self-timed computer system theory, a design approach for ultrafast computers. While the operations of commercial computers are controlled by a single clock, most researchers in the field believe that significant speed breakthroughs await the advent of systems whose components can operate independently. At Sun, Molnar was continuing his work in this area. Molnar was known as an intensely curious researcher whose talents and interests ranged from physiology and bioengineering to electrical engineering and computers, music and furniture building, and hiking and canoeing. Ornstein said that during the development of the LINC, the group had often turned to Molnar to help solve the most difficult engineering and design problems. In the 1960s, Molnar and Clark obtained a patent for sending computer programs over cable television lines to communicate data from central computers, which were expensive at the time, to less expensive bedside terminals in intensive-care units. The patent, which is now expired, turned out to be ahead of its time. Some companies are now starting to employ the cable technology, which allows users to send data much faster than by the more common telephone lines. In addition to his wife, Molnar is survived by two sons, Steven and Christopher.

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Electrical Engineering Dept., Columbia University