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Robert Royce (Bob) Johnson

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Robert Royce (Bob) Johnson Obituary
Robert R. Johnson
(Bob)
June 20, 1928 ~ March 25, 2016
Robert Royce Johnson "Bob" passed away at age 87 from Parkinson's Disease. Son of a University of Wisconsin Electrical Engineering professor, Bob was a thoughtful and enterprising boy. By the seventh grade he had rejected prior career choices of being a garbage man or a sailor on a Great Lakes ore boat and decided to become an electrical engineer. He entered the of University of Wisconsin in 1946 where he earned election to Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu honorary societies. He was the editor of the Engineering College magazine, and also played French horn in the UW marching band. Bob met his future wife Mary Perrine at a summer session in 1949.
In 1950 Bob earned a Master's Degree in servomechanisms at Yale. The following year he was awarded a Hughes Fellowship to attend Caltech. Working at Hughes under scientists formerly from Los Alamos, he designed and built the first aircraft guidance digital computer and later designed the guidance computer for the Falcon missile. By the time he left Hughes he had accrued his first 15 patents. Most notable was the 1953 "Johnson Counter", which is still used in computer design. His PhD dissertation project was to create a digital computer that solved advanced algebraic equations. It is worth noting that his 1956 E.E. PhD was the first granted by Caltech in Digital Computing.
Following Caltech, Bob joined the General Electric research lab in Syracuse, N.Y. His first major assignment was to head the team designing the GE/Bank of America's computerized bank check accounting system, called ERMA. The ERMA system's magnetic ink characters used on checks today is the oldest continuous standard in the computer industry.
From GE, Bob went to Burroughs Corp. in 1964. As Burroughs' V.P. of Engineering he lead efforts in language directed computer architecture. Bob joined Energy Conversion Devices (ECD) of Troy, MI in 1981, where he became president and founder of Ovonic Imaging Systems (OIS) creating amorphous silicon flat panel displays and batch fabricated computers. He also founded Mosaic Systems Inc that designed and built electrically programmable wafer stacks.
In 1987 Bob joined the faculty of the University of Utah as Chairman of Computer Science. After retirement in 1993, he joined Filoli Information Systems of Palo Alto CA, then SI Diamond of Austin TX, and in 1996 established nDV LLC, specializing in data mining multi dimensional visualizations.
Throughout the years, Bob maintained a great love for camping, skiing, hiking, sailing, travel, and growing heritage apples. He loved Utah Symphony, Utah Opera and Salt Lake Chamber Music concerts. He delighted in seeing his children and grandchildren share his passions.
Bob is survived by Mary, his wife of sixty-two years, daughters Perrine Anderson (Ken High) and Allegra Pitera (Dan), son Royce Johnson (Jennifer), brothers Dr. W. Dudley Johnson and the Rev Dr. Stephen B. Johnson (Joan), as well as seven grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held Wednesday, April 6, 5 pm, at All Saints Episcopal Church, 1710 S Foothill, Salt Lake City. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Bob Johnson Innovation Award for undergraduate Computer Science students. Please send to: University of Utah School of Computing Bob Johnson Innovation Award, 50 S. Central Campus Dr., 3190 MEB, Salt Lake City, UT, 84112.
Published in Salt Lake Tribune from Apr. 1 to Apr. 6, 2016
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