Winograd, Terry

Winograd at the first ACM Conference on computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) in Austin, TX in December 1986.
Winograd at the first ACM Conference on computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) in Austin, TX in December 1986.

Terry Winograd (1946 – ) is a Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Stanford University and co-director of the Stanford Human-Computer Interaction Group, which encompasses degree programs and research in a number of departments promoting design, implementation, testing, and analysis. Winograd is recognized in the fields of artificial intelligence and the philosophy of mind for his work with natural language using the SHRDLU program. The program, which Winograd wrote as his Ph.D. thesis at MIT in the late 1960s, aimed to provide computers with sufficient “understanding” to use natural language – language human beings would use to communicate. After focusing his early academic career on programming computers to interact with people as if they were other people, Winograd redirected his efforts to creating computer interactions that would support and enhance human experience.

Throughout his career, the common thread in all his work is the principle that technology invention must begin with and be shaped by an understanding of how technology affects people’s lives and experiences. Winograd was elected to the CHI Academy in 2004, and he received the 2011 ACM SIGCHI Lifetime Research Award, recognizing him as “a major influence in HCI through broadening its perspectives, demonstrating the relevance and importance of diverse schools of thought to understanding and designing interaction.”

Winograd with his SIGCHI Lifetime Achievement Award (upside down) at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Vancouver, BC, Canada in 2011.
Winograd with his SIGCHI Lifetime Achievement Award (upside down) at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Vancouver, BC, Canada in 2011.

“Terry Winograd began his career with a highly influential dissertation, ‘Understanding Natural Language,’ in which he demonstrated success in dealing with a limited set of nouns and verbs related to his ‘blocks world.’  I wrote critically about the utility of this work in my 1980 book Software Psychology, so I was pleased that Winograd’s 1987 book, ‘Understanding Computers and Cognition,’ with Flores reported that ‘computers can’t understand natural language.’  I called him up to discuss and found that he was recommending my critique to his students.  From then on, we developed a warm, collegial relationship.  I looked forward to my Stanford visits and chances to speak for his famed HCI course.  I always admired Terry for his deep understanding of ethical issues in computing, his activism through the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, and his efforts to promote HCI at Stanford.  His masterful lectures were always an attraction for me, as was his clear thinking about research and social issues.  He famously worked with Sergei Brin and Larry Page to write the key paper that was the basis for Google.  More than most of my colleagues, he was a model and inspiration to me, and to many others.”  – Ben Shneiderman


Education:

  • Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1970)
  • Postgraduate degree in linguistics, University College, London (1967)
  • B.A. in Mathematics, The Colorado College (1966)

Affiliations:

  • Advisory Board, iFIXme (2009 – Present)
  • On leave from Stanford University, Google (2002 – 2003)
  • Consultant, Google (2001 – Present)
  • On leave from Stanford University, Interval Research, Palo Alto (1992 – 1993)
  • Consultant, Action Technologies, Inc., Alameda, CA (1987 – 1996)
  • President, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (1987 – 1990)
  • National Board, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (1984 – 1996)
  • Faculty Member, Computer Science Department, Stanford University (1973 – Present)
  • Instructor in Mathematics and Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1970 – 1973)
  • Consultant, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (1972 – 1983)

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