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Microsoft's Charles Simonyi to be 1st Nerd in Space 234

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the flying-high dept.
Richard L. James writes "The BBC are reporting that Hungarian-born Charles Simonyi, a 58-year old Microsoft billionaire software engineer is set to become the first 'nerd in space' on board the Soyuz TMA-10 when the spacecraft launches on Thursday 09th March 2007. Charles oversaw the development of Multiplan, Word, and Excel among many other achievements. He has launched a website detailing the 3 goals he wishes to achieve on the trip: advance civilian spaceflight, assist space station research, and involve kids in space sciences. Jó szerencse pölö Charles!"
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Microsoft's Charles Simonyi to be 1st Nerd in Space

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  • First nerd??? (Score:5, Informative)

    by the_humeister (922869) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:52PM (#16604522)
    I thought Mark Shuttleworth claimed that title (the Ubuntu guy)?
  • Yuri Gagarin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Airconditioning (639167) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:53PM (#16604534) Journal
    Wouldn't he qualify as first geek in space? I mean, the Russians didn't send a painter up did they?
  • by motank (867244) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:54PM (#16604548)
    yeah, cos everyone that's gone to space so far has been a football jock right?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Well obviously! Otherwise they wouldn't have been able to jump like that...
    • by kfg (145172) on Friday October 27, 2006 @01:04AM (#16605150)
      Well, the first couple of batches were fighter jocks, actually, hard men with extensive combat experience; but that didn't preclude them from being geeks/nerds as well.

      The first American in space, Alan Shepard, had a Bachelor of Science from Annapolis.

      Or take the first two men on the moon (please). Neil Armstrong had a Bachelor of Science from Purdue and a Master of Aeronautical Engineering from USC (and had been accepted at MIT). Buzz Aldrin majored in Science at West Point and eventually earned a PhD from MIT.

      Jocks with slide rules. It happens.

      KFG
  • go nerds (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:56PM (#16604556)
    Nerdy? Well can he quote the Holy Grail and make you ROTFLOL?
  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:56PM (#16604564)
    "Okay this'll get me laid, right?"
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PsychicX (866028)
      According to his Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] article, he is dating Martha Stewart.

      Clearly women are not a focus of his life.
      • by c6gunner (950153)
        EWWWWWWWWW!

        So his real first question must have been:

        "Ok, so this will get me someone better than Martha, right?"
  • science nerd (Score:5, Informative)

    by arun_s (877518) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:56PM (#16604566) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft bashing aside, this is the guy who's founded the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford. Richard Dawkins is the current head. I guess that qualifies him pretty much as a (science) nerd.
    He still didn't have to put up a Flash 9 only website, though.
  • by rifftide (679288) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:56PM (#16604568)
    I've often thought, whoever came up with this convention for naming variables ought to be shut in a Russian spacecraft and sent far, far away.
  • Termination (Score:5, Funny)

    by joe_n_bloe (244407) on Friday October 27, 2006 @12:05AM (#16604646) Homepage
    Being fired is one thing ... but being fired into space?
  • Gone where no Windows has gone before... along with the anti-spyware, anti-virus and firewall and sun block.
  • Bullshit. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alex Belits (437) * on Friday October 27, 2006 @12:09AM (#16604688) Homepage
    I am sure, in nearly half a century of manned space flight there were many cosmonauts/astronauts that are nerdier than some rich Microsoft guy.
  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Friday October 27, 2006 @12:11AM (#16604706)
    Jó szerencse == Good luck pölö == ??? (it could be póló, which means tshirt or a phonetic version of pl, meaning "for example" but I haven't the slightest idea what did they mean to write)

    by a native hungarian in the early morning (so if I missed something obvious, it's early!).
  • by qw0ntum (831414) on Friday October 27, 2006 @12:14AM (#16604748) Journal
    I for one am glad we're finally breaking the nerd in space barrier. I mean, it's not like we've ever seen a molecular biologist or astrophysicist go into space. No, they are far too nerdy for something like that.
  • FYI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) on Friday October 27, 2006 @12:15AM (#16604760)
    Charles Simonyi is the Hungarian in Hungarian notation (you know, m_lpszUsrTxt and the like).

    To be entirely fair to him, it wasn't intended to make variable names inscrutable, it applied to a language with weak type checking and few real types, and it still has valid uses today [joelonsoftware.com] if you use it to mark information about the type of data instead of the "type" of variable.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Procyon101 (61366)
      There are many problems with it though. First, there is absolutely no enforcement of such typing, which means that if the "type" changes in the future, you have documentation in your code that is linked to the code itself and much more difficult to change... which actually encourages the "out of date" comment problem. Secondly, it was popularized to such an extent as to be obnoxious.. leading to things like: for(int nCount=0;nCount10;nCount++); Thirdly, it gets unweildy for the cases when it begins to be
      • by rolfwind (528248)
        Yup, the excuse for bad variable names all around. Data types and variable types change, don't stick it in the name - the IDE should tell you the type, it's more reliable too. Hungarian notation can be a source of errors in this way if the type is changed but not the name. Yeah, you can change the name in some cases, and in some cases you can't (like when the functions and inputs become an API).
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by EvanED (569694)
          Did you read the link that was posted a couple comments up? Almost all of the original suggestions AREN'T putting the data type in the name. They're stuff like 'd' to mark that the variable is a delta -- x is an absolute position, dx is a difference between two points. If you see code like x1 + x2 then, that should raise your eyebrow. The linked article gives the example of using 'us' and 's' to prefix unsafe and safe strings respectively, where "unsafe" means "just came in over the network; protect against
      • by prockcore (543967)
        First, there is absolutely no enforcement of such typing, which means that if the "type" changes in the future, you have documentation in your code that is linked to the code itself and much more difficult to change


        The best example of this is the proliferation of "lp" prefixes scattered throughout windows. The long pointer hasn't existed since windows 3.1
        • by Octorian (14086)
          And you gotta love how MS manged to basically typedef/#define just about every single data type in their API. As such, Win32 C/C++ code starts to almost look like its entirely own programming language.

          Of course in my occasional attempt at poking fun at Windows programming, I like to cite two different API function specification styles I've seen. Style 1 seems to involve a function with a few parameters, each of which is a 50-item struct. Style 2 seems to involve a function that just has 50 parameters (so
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by syousef (465911)
      Charles Simonyi is the Hungarian in Hungarian notation (you know, m_lpszUsrTxt and the like).

      All in favour of shooting this guy off into space?

      The I's have it. Motion carried.
  • by hvnarsana (995157) on Friday October 27, 2006 @12:15AM (#16604768) Homepage
    .. do you really really think that to achieve either/or of the 3 goals you need to spend a truckload (or 10) of cash to go into space? Why not use the money to advocate better education, books, and a series of talks by prominent astronauts or the like? I find this to be a colossal waste of finances and time, which could be better utilized.
    • The 3 goals he wishes to achieve on the trip: advance civilian spaceflight, assist space station research, and involve kids in space sciences.

      That's what struck me most about the post: our focus on putting Humans In Space doesn't actually accomplish anything in terms of getting us to Mars, or even back to Luna, other than "raise awareness." In other words, it's just a publicity stunt.

      I applaud all the private space flight ventures, but where is the exploration? I don't mean we should be focusing on rob
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kfg (145172)
      Why not use the money to advocate better education, books, and a series of talks by prominent astronauts or the like?

      From Wikipedia:

      Simonyi has been an active philanthropist, establishing the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, the first occupant of which is Richard Dawkins. In January 2004, Simonyi created the $50 million Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, through which Simonyi plans to support Seattle area arts, science, and educational programs.

  • by cascadefx (174894) * <morlockhq&gmail,com> on Friday October 27, 2006 @12:17AM (#16604784) Journal
    I guess the submitter (I hope it wasn't the editor's) didn't realize that a heck of a lot of physicists and astronomers and other hard core scientists have been to space way before Charles Simonyi. If his point was that he was the first somewhat famous computer geek to make it into space, he would be wrong again. Simonyi was beaten to the punch years ago by Mark Shuttleworth of Thawte and Ubunutu Linux [ubuntu.com] fame.
    • by David Off (101038)
      Okay how about "first purveyor of bug riddled software and daft eastern european ideas about programming" in space? Is that okay?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The last sentences means good luck Charles.
  • sz_Hmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 27, 2006 @12:41AM (#16604986)
    sz_I p_guess u_congratulations sz_are m_in p_order.

  • I'm pretty sure many previous "rocket scientists" are more nerdy than someone that went on a software to managment track.
  • He's the one to blame for Word.... :-)

    Just finished my 2nd book ... in Word ...

    My 3rd book will be in LaTeX [like my first].

    That said, who gives a flying shit about some billionaire honky in space? Personally I'd think of cooler things to do with my money. I'd arbitrarily make cool people "funded" so they could pursue research and fun projects. Just all spontaneous like. That's just for starters...

    Spending it on the big houses, cars, boats, etc is just cliche and lame. Once you get past your 1st 12,000
    • by ocbwilg (259828)
      That said, who gives a flying shit about some billionaire honky in space? Personally I'd think of cooler things to do with my money. I'd arbitrarily make cool people "funded" so they could pursue research and fun projects. Just all spontaneous like. That's just for starters...

      Yeah. Instead of blowing his money on space travel, he ought to be funding "cool" things. Like starting companies that research and teach cool new programming techniques. Or maybe endowing the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Pu
      • Ok, the thing is I still have a point. If he *is* doing those cool and useful things, why aren't we hearing about it here? I'd much rather read about rich people doing actual good things [well I'd like to read about ANYONE doing good things] then just spending it foolishly.

        Generally though, starting companies is NOT cool because they usually sell out any individual sense of spirit and purpose for the almighty buck fairly quickly.

        Let's see him start companies which don't, for instance, run Windows or make
  • by nuzak (959558) on Friday October 27, 2006 @01:03AM (#16605146) Journal
    "My hovercraft is full of eels"?
  • by cyclone96 (129449) on Friday October 27, 2006 @01:15AM (#16605226)
    I work for NASA supporting the Space Station, and the irony of a Microsoft guy going up is pretty amusing.

    The crew has a network of laptops running WinXP to do non-critical support tasks, chiefly email. While they work pretty well and generally can be maintained from Houston, the crew does spend a fair amount of time keeping them working. You can often hear tales of woe with the network interspersed with operational discussions on the space to ground audio.

    For example, this is from the September 8, 2006 ISS status report posted at http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=21998 [spaceref.com]

    Jeff's attempts yesterday to set up an Outlook email account for Soyuz taxi crewmember Anousheh Ansari were not successful. This is a repeat of a problem seen with previous email accounts for Soyuz taxi crewmembers. Plans are in work to give the SFP (Space Flight Participant) a regular ISS email account.

    I have the feeling that he is going to be jokingly dubbed the "new on-site IT support" by the commander as soon as he arrives.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Off-topic, but joking aside, I'm sorry to hear that much time is spent on such tasks. If I paid $20M to get to space, I wouldn't want to spend 30 minutes futzing with an email account; time is money, and not at an inexpensive rate.

      Why don't they use simpler systems that are less prone to issues than WinXP?

      Although space is a pretty complicated affair, and I can understand having complicated systems to support it, an email configuration doesn't seem to be something is interacts enough with the limitations
    • by The Bungi (221687)
      Wow, my organization keeps a couple of thousand people happily using Exchange and Outlook 24/7/365, and they're not even rocket scientists. Maybe NASA could use some of our expertise? I'm sure some of the junior sysadmins here would love to help in their free time.
  • Uh, whaa? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anubis350 (772791) on Friday October 27, 2006 @01:20AM (#16605254)
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isnt every Astronaut a nerd? How about any number of non-astro-scientists that I'm sure have been in space doing research?
    • Way back when, if memory serves, there wasn't really any such thing as "nerds". Even if their preferred levels of study were scientific, back in the 40s/50s, most of those who were in academics were either (a) fighting the evil Nazi scientists, or (b) fighting the evil Communist scientists.

      Beyond that, most astronauts were (at least according to "The Right Stuff", if not local lore, if not bios) in it, in those days, to be "The First". It didn't matter how low. First astronaut to orbit the Earth twice? Woo
  • Can we take up a collection to send a civilian into space with the ability to translate the experience into art? Somebody like Spider Robinson, or Tom Wolfe, perhaps? How long will the most liminal and mind-expanding human experience only be the province of those who lack the passion and subtlety to appreciate it, and who cannot, therefore, sublimate it for the rest of us? "Space. Wow. It was so damn empty. Man, you can see the whole earth! Even the dark bits, without people!" If we send somebody up
  • Don't trust him, he's from "The Company"! Ain't that right Bishop?
  • by melted (227442) on Friday October 27, 2006 @01:53AM (#16605448) Homepage
    That's lpszCharles lpszSimonyi, thank you very much.
  • Harrison Schmitt (Score:5, Informative)

    by RichardtheSmith (157470) on Friday October 27, 2006 @02:18AM (#16605592)
    This guy was really the first nerd in space...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Schmitt [wikipedia.org]

    He was a geologist from Cal Tech who got to check out lunar geology
    up close up close and personal on the Apollo 17 mission.

    That's *very* nerdy, in a *very* cool kind of way. :)
  • by darkeye (199616) on Friday October 27, 2006 @02:40AM (#16605700) Homepage
    "Jó szerencse pölö Charles!" just doesn't make any sense. If you wanted to right: "Good luck, Charles!", you would say: "Jó szerencsét, Charles!". BTW, you'd rather say: "Jó szerencsét, Károly!" - as the name Charles is Károly in Hungarian. And yes, his original name is Simonyi Károly, written in this order as per the Hungarian custom of naming.

    I just wonder how the "pölö" part came into the sentence - as it's not a word in our language. The closest I can think of that it's the pronounciation of the abbreviation "pl.", which is short for "például" - meaning: "for example". I guess you guys asked someone: "How do I say Good Luck in Hungarian?", and the answer might have been: "Jó szerencse, pl." meaning: "For example: Jó szerencsét".

    Ákos
    a native Hungarian (speaker)
  • by DiamondGeezer (872237) on Friday October 27, 2006 @04:43AM (#16606298) Homepage
    ...you're all completely jealous.

    So am I.
  • Because obviously all those engineers and scientists usually in orbit aren't nerds...
  • I read a biography of Charles Simonyi once. What struck me was that he must be the luckiest man alive after Ringo Starr. As far as I could tell, he was simply in the right place, at the right time, to give us the WORST word processor or all time - and make billions in the process.

    I know that Hungarian notation [wikipedia.org] is often cited as one of his great achievements, but really - what has this guy ever actually positively contributed to anything other than a superlative example to coat-tailing?
  • The article makes it sound like "nerds" should feel proud of this. I, for one, don't.

    Simonyi condemned us to Hungarian notation and decades of writing code in C, C++, and COM, and is significantly responsible for the bloatware that is Microsoft Office. The negative impact of this, both for Microsoft products, and outside, has been enormous. Simonyi's most important contribution was his creation of the first WYSIWYG editor, while he was at Xerox.

    Fortunately, after several decades of this, Microsoft is fin
    • by gilgongo (57446)
      His biography was included in a collection of influential computing people in some book I've forgotten the name of now. Compared to people like Linus Torvalds, Bill Gates, Richard Stallman and others, Simonyi came across as basically a chancer who knew enough about programming to blag his way through life, but not much more. The Xerox WYSIWYG editor was not (even by his own admission) an innovation. Lots of people had theorised such an editor - he was simply in the right place with the right resources to co
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Olsen [wikipedia.org]

    He worked at RCA Laboratories the same time I did. I can testify that he is, indeed, a nerd.

    Fred
  • I mean, that's the least MS should do for their guy. After all, if he's the 'first' nerd (totally untrue if you know a little bit about Mark Shuttleworth :-) and he's been so 'influential' (right time at the right place) than MS ought to give him the best help possible and send him up controlled by a bunch of Vista systems that are naturally edge-to-edge DRM-ed to make sure he's 100% "safe".

    Buuuugs in spaaace. Oh sorry, that should be 'piiigs' :-).

  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday October 27, 2006 @10:02AM (#16608406)
    Kind of retarded for not notiing their have been 40 PhDs in space already as astronauts or shuttle specialists. Plus three of the private astronauts made their fortunes in the computer industry.

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