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08/26/92

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Gates donates $6 million for Stanford information sciences building

STANFORD -- William H. Gates III, chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft Corporation, has made a $6 million gift to Stanford University for completion of the Information Sciences Building on campus.

The 49,363-square-foot building will be the primary center for computer science at the university, bringing together a number of related disciplines now housed in nine different locations across the campus.

"Many of the future's most challenging research problems in computer science are inherently interdisciplinary," said James F. Gibbons, dean of the School of Engineering. "The proximity of faculty and students in this new state- of-the-art space will bring greater interaction among disciplines, increasing innovation and creativity."

Among the information science groups to be housed in the new building will be the Computer Systems Laboratory, a joint research facility of the Computer Science and Electrical Engineering departments, and the Robotics Laborator y of the Computer Science Department. The building also will house all of the Computer Science Department's faculty in artificial intelligence. There will be six classrooms, the largest to accommodate 200 students.

Gates said he chose Stanford for his gift "because I want to invest in the future of the industry, and Stanford is one of the five best computer science schools in the country, one where many fundamental breakthroughs have occu rred."

The next wave of significant software applications will involve the integration of a wide variety of information - text, sound and images - and this will require new software and hardware technology, Gates said.

"I particularly support an interdisciplinary approach because great ideas always come from smart people working together, and the more diverse the group, and the more interesting their technical backgrounds, the greater the syn ergy," he said. "Fundamental research is essential to advancing the state of the art in computers and digital technology."

Microsoft Corporation itself spends more than $10 million a year in fundamental research in computer technology, and Gates said the company is committed to working more and more closely with the major university-oriented resear ch centers.

Gates has no alumni connections to Stanford, and this is his first personal contribution to the school. Microsoft has made gifts of more than $100,000 to the university for scholarships and through the Computer Forum Affiliates Program.

Gates started his career in computer software at an early age, working as a consultant in mainframe/minicomputer programming during high school in Seattle, along with his friend Paul Allen. In 1974, Gates, then an undergraduate at Harvard University, worked with Allen to develop a programming language, BASIC, for the first commercially available microcomputer, the MITS Altair. The two then formed Microsoft to develop and market software for the emerging micr ocomputer marketplace.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., was co-founded by Gates in 1975. With $2.8 billion in annual revenues, the company is the leading developer of personal computer software in the world. It has set standards for the software i ndustry in operating systems, applications software and languages.

Gates continues to provide the company's vision on new products and technology and plays an important role in the technical development and management of the company. He recently was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Bush for outstanding contributions in the field of personal computing.

The new facility, to be known as the Gates Information Sciences Building, will allow students and faculty involved in computer science to solve problems in ways they haven't been able to do while housed in individual groups so far away from one another, said Professor John Hennessy, director of the Computer Systems Laboratory.

For example, substantial progress has been made in building high-performance computers out of many smaller processors - called multiprocessors; however, progress in learning how to program these machines and theoretically model their performance has been much slower.

"Bringing various parts of the computer science department together could lead to major progress in this area," Hennessy said. "Another important challenge in the field that could benefit from closer proximity of researchers is exploring the use of large-scale multiprocessors in new applications areas such as database management."

Robotics is another example where interaction among disciplines is vital, said Professor Jean-Claude Latombe.

"Over the past years, the concept of robot has extended far beyond the early computer-controlled manipulator arms and mobile vehicles," said Latombe, who directs the Robotics Laboratory. "Today, robotics is where computers meet the physical world through sensors and actuators.

"Our research in robotics develops new approaches to artificial intelligence. For example, decisive progress is being made in programming large systems as collections of knowledgeable agents, leading the way to a whole new appr oach to programming."

Bringing robotics and computer systems into the same building will allow joint experiments and also could bring unprecedented progress in sensor-based robot control and geometric modeling, Latombe said.

The Gates gift closes the funding gap for the $26.1 million building, to be built on Serra Street next to the Gilbert Biosciences Building, and across Via Palou from the Center for Integrated Systems. Design is beginning now, a nd construction is expected to be completed in 1995. All funding was raised privately.

The facility is one of the key elements in Stanford's Near West Campus, a group of buildings to the west of the central quadrangle that are to provide facilities for the university's science and engineering programs well into t he 21st century.

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