He has been described as a prophet, a visionary. Bill Gates himself has said for him that "he was the first technological humanist; he believed that technology was useless if it didn’t really serve human life, communication, entertainment, and work." This was the distinguished professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Michael Dertouzos.
By Mia Kollia
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
Michael Dertouzos was born in Athens, on November 5, 1936. He graduated from Athens College and settled in the USA to study. There, he made a brilliant career as a professor and director of the MIT Computer Science Laboratory and served as an adviser to US President Jimmy Carter on computer science. He has also been a technology adviser to the Greek government for years.
For his contribution to Greece, he was honoured with the Grand Cross of the Order of Honour, was awarded with an honorary doctorate by the University of Athens and was declared an honorary member of the Academy of Athens.
The Greek "guru" of information technology had already predicted, even from the late 70's, the prevalence of personal computer use, automation in the field of production, but also cooperation in space-time which was verified by the huge spread of the Internet.
But always at the top of this pyramid, the Greek scientist put the man above all and often said to his students: "with one hand touch the stars and with the other stir the mud". In other words, man should have technology at his service and not the other way around.
Harold Abelson, also a professor at MIT, has said that "Michael Dertouzos was the first to argue that computers should be widely used in education, when at MIT we had just 10 computers".
In 1975, he spread the crazy idea that one day computers would be at every house." Tim Berners-Lee, the so-called "Father of the internet", has recognised his huge offer: "Without Michael maybe there would be no www. My own ideas were scattered and disordered. Dertouzos gave them a goal and a pattern, he did what my ideas needed to take place and be accepted. His leadership, the clarity of his thinking and the warmth of his heart were a constant support to me."
Under the guidance of Dertouzos, the Computer Science Laboratory at MIT created, among other things, the spreadsheets, the Ethernet network, the public key cryptography, the graphical computer communication system, the graphics tablet and the Windows X.
Although he lived in the US for most of his life, Michael Dertouzos always had his country in his heart.
“…I am still dreaming of Hellenism throughout the universe using the new information technology to bond tightly, all of us, the Greeks of the Diaspora along with the Greeks of the Mediterranean, thus creating a new Greece", he once said.
Michael Dertouzos passed away in Massachusetts on August 27, 2001, at the age of 64 and was buried in Athens.