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Autodesk co-founder John Walker dies, aged 75

The esteemed computer programmer is remembered for his contributions to the software industry and the rise of the PC.

John Walker, the co-founder of computer-aided design (CAD) software company Autodesk, died on 2 February at the age of 75.

Survived by his wife Roxie and brother Bill, Walker has is remembered as a pioneer in the software industry for his contributions over the years, including his part in the development of AutoCAD, which greatly enhanced the process of designing blueprint for construction processes.

Architects, engineers, builders and pretty much any designers who work with computers will be familiar with Autodesk, having been a major platform in the CAD space since the early 1980s.

In his youth, Walker opted not to follow in his family’s footsteps of becoming a medical doctor and instead sought to pursue a future in astronomy before the new world of computers took hold of his interest and he never looked back.

Walker is also known for his meticulous documentation of the early days of Autodesk – and of the PC in general – through essays he named ‘The Autodesk File’. These essays are now published on his website Fourmilab and include ‘Information Letter 14: The Final Days’, a widely circulated memo Walker wrote in 1991 in which he expressed concerns about the future of Autodesk.

Steven S, well-known software engineer and former president, of the Windows division at Microsoft, said Walker’s insights were brilliant in world where real-time internet didn’t exist and almost no company leader spoke candidly.

“Some of the most nostalgic (think Halt and Catch Fire) essays are about the challenges of the business in the early days, but the lessons and discussions will sound familiar,” he wrote in a post on X.

“As a remembrance I would encourage reading these and other essays on the site. They are fantastic lessons from a legend. Rest in peace”

John Walker in 2007. Image: Shaan Hurley via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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