Microsoft programming legend Charles Simonyi is leaving the company after a 21 year stint, the company announced today. Simonyi joined Microsoft in 1981 when Microsoft had only 40 employees--it has approximately 50,000 today--and guided the company's efforts to move beyond development tools to early software applications such as Multiplan, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Excel.
Simonyi is joining Xerox researcher Gregor Kiczales to form a new company called Intentional Software Corporation, which will work on low-level software development tools designed to help software designs be translated into actual source code. These tools may use graphic images as well as the more typical text-based source code to represent underlying software programs. It's a technical subject for a highly sophisticated and technical man who, though a billionaire, never had any interest in the business side of Microsoft.
A Hungarian native, Simonyi is most famous for creating the so-called "Hungarian" naming convention, still used by developers worldwide to create software source code that is easier to read and maintain. Simonyi says that the name of this convention was just a joke, a take on the phrase, "it's all Greek to me." "Naming conventions are supposed to make the code more readable," he said in a 1986 interview. "The joke is that the program looks so unreadable \[when using my naming convention\], it might as well have been written in Hungarian. But it's a set of conventions that controls the naming of all quantities in the program. 'Hungarian' is a complete jumble to the uninitiated, and that's the joke."
After starting the Application Software Group at Microsoft, Simonyi went on to become the company's Chief Software Architect, a title he held until 1999. More recently, Simonyi was recognized as a Microsoft Distinguished Engineer for his pioneering technical work at the company.