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Waite Retires as Editor of Operating Systems Review


December 2005

Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering professor William Waite was recently recognized for his contributions as the long-time editor of Operating Systems Review. The ACM posted the following news story:

William Waite, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, has retired as editor of Operating Systems Review, after more than 30 years of service. In October, SIGOPS, ACM's Special Interest Group on Operating Systems, recognized his long-time contribution at the SOSP Symposium on Operating Systems Principles. Succeeding him is Jeanna Matthews of Clarkson University.

The first issue of OSR that Waite edited was October 1972. Before that, he was editor of the SNOBOL Bulletin, a publication of SIGPLAN, ACM's Special Interest Group on Programming Languages and Systems. R. Stockton Gaines, newly-elected chair of SIGOPS, invited Waite to edit OSR. They had done consulting work together at Bell Labs for Ralph Griswold, the creator of SNOBOL. (SNOBOL, or "string-oriented symbol manipulation language," was used for applications such as language parsing and for writing recursive subroutines. It was later superseded by ICON.) "He was very persuasive, and I had some interest in operating systems, so I agreed," said Waite. "Bill has done a really great job all these years on OSR," said Stockton Gaines.

William Waite photo

"ACM has undergone many changes of leadership over the years but Bill's corner was steady, quiet, and serene," said Peter Denning, who now serves on ACM's Education Board but then was Waite's predecessor in the editor slot. "He has made a huge imprint on SIGOPS and the OS field, and we will be forever grateful to him."

In his inaugural editorial, Waite expressed a desire that SIGOPS serve as a much-needed bridge between academia and industry, as the gap between the two communities was especially prevalent in the operating systems field. "We really need to do some critical thinking about where we really stand: which theoretical concepts are useful in practical situations, and which ad-hoc coding techniques require more careful theoretical treatment," he urged readers.

How has OSR evolved since those early days? "In a sense, very little has changed," said Waite. "The content of OSR has been determined almost solely by the submissions, as opposed to any fad or agenda imposed on it."

Over the past few years, however, OSR has received large number of submissions of papers covering the area of passwords and login procedures. "It seems that every such paper generates three or four analyses of why it doesn't work, complete with fixes, which are shown not to work by later submissions," Waite observed. The spate of papers in this area generated so much feedback that "we've recently tried to stem the tide," he said.

"One of the perks of being an editor in those days was that you got copies of all of the SIG newsletters," Waite recalled. "Back in the days before the Internet, that was a powerful incentive because you could easily see what was going on in a wide variety of fields."

Waite received his PhD and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University, and his AB from Oberlin College. His research interests are automation of compiler construction; support for design in domain-specific programming environments; and provision of effective tutorial material for those environments. He teaches courses relating to compiler construction, programming language principles, programming methodology, computer architecture, and operating system principles. Waite has also been a guest professor, fellow, or lecturer at many colleges and universities in the US and abroad.

Late this year, ACM acknowledged Waite with a plaque in gratitude for his many years of stalwart and conscientious editorship.

Waite plans to retire from the University after the Summer 2006 semester.

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