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William Roberts

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William Roberts Obituary
Roberts, William
September 7, 1931 - August 5, 2012
Founder & Chairman, Emulex. Bill Roberts was an entrepreneur in computer technology. As a teenager he helped his dad, an electrician, wire homes & public buildings. His curiosity for all things technical began taking shape. Bill was born in the Bryn Mawr Hospital outside of Philadelphia and grew up in Oakmont, a suburb of Philadelphia. He graduated from Haverford High School and from Renssalear Politechnical Institute in 1953. He went on to get his Masters at UC Berkeley while also teaching Naval ROTC. After Berkeley Bill stayed in California working for many of the state's engineering firms including Lockheed Martin, Beckmann Industries (now Beckman Coulter), Microdata, Astrodata and Western Digital. According to Bill Pohlman, a colleague at Western Digital where Bill was VP of R&D, Roberts created the LSI-11 program with DEC (Digital Equipment Corp.) It was the first WLSI mini computer design. Pohlman added that Roberts, while at Microdata, "developed the Microdata 3200, an innovative "stack machine", the first of its kind optimized for execution of high level languages." In 1966 he had moved from the Bay Area down to Orange County. He met his future wife, Barbara, a flight attendant, on a DC-8 from JFK to LAX. She attributed their success as a couple to the dynamic polar opposites of their personalities and to their shared ethics, their values and learning from each other's perspective. Bill's engineering career included patents for Disney when he helped create the animatronics that move the characters at the theme park. His career culminated with the founding of Emulex with partner Paul Rutkowski. The company began in Roberts' living room & was originally named Digital House. Their focus was to create floppy discs that interfaced with Digital Equipment's computers. Because of Bill's & Paul's attention to details & perfection, they decided they needed to expand their operation into the manufacturing of their products. They became Emulex. According to an L.A. Times article from 1983, "Emulex makes so-called controllers and multiplexers for microcomputers made by Digital Equipment Corp. Emulex controllers are printed circuit boards containing integrated circuits that permit a large computer to operate a disc or tape drive, while a multiplexer permits a number of high-speed data transmissions over wire." After retiring as Chairman of Emulex, Bill used his computer expertise to put the local arts organizations on the web as the web master for Arts Orange County. His love of music and theater led to involvement and contributions to Opera Pacific, South Coast Repertory, Orange County Performing Arts Center, now the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Pacific Symphony and the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. Besides music, Bill loved to dance with his favorite dance partner, wife Barbara of 45 years. He enjoyed photography, sailing, skiing, tennis and travel. The three Bs - Bill, Barbara and daughter Brooke travelled many miles, landing in such unique spots as Cape Town, Bali, & the beaches at Normandy. Bill had a subtle sense of humor, was kind and held himself and others up to high standards. His integrity is witnessed by the longevity of friendships with good people. Bill is survived by his wife, Barbara, his daughter, Brooke Roberts-Webb, her spouse, Ron Webb, his grandson, Alexander William Webb, his sister Phyllis Montague, her children, David, Lynn, and Sandi, and their families. And for all those colleagues, friends and family it has been a Disneyland "E" ticket ride. The sad note is that Bill Roberts, who created memory for computers, was not able to sustain his own memory. It was wiped out by Alzheimers.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 7, 2012
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