David Patterson

Digital Library

ACM A. M. Turing Award

USA - 2017



For pioneering a systematic, quantitative approach to the design and evaluation of computer architectures with enduring impact on the microprocessor industry.

David Patterson and John Hennessy created a systematic and quantitative approach to designing faster, lower power, and reduced complexity microprocessors. Their approach led to lasting and repeatable principles that generations of architects have used for many projects in academia and industry. The impact has been stunning: many tens of billions of processors use reduced complexity architectures. In particular, the ARM processor, which powers nearly all smart phones, was significantly influenced by Patterson and Hennessy's work.

Having learned from their applied work on the highly influential MIPS and RISC processors at Stanford and UC Berkeley, respectively, Patterson and Hennessy expressed their approach to design using a parameterized architecture they named DLX.  With it, they provided an intellectually simple, robust, and quantitative framework for evaluating integrated systems.

Their insights into integration proved paradigm-shifting in key ways.  For example, they guided designers to carefully optimize their systems to allow for the differing costs of memory and computation.  Their work also enabled a shift from seeking raw performance to designing architectures that offered the correct balance of the elements that are placed on a single chip, to address issues such as power consumption, heat dissipation, and off-chip communication.

Patterson and Hennessy codified their insights in a very influential book, Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, reaching generations of engineers and scientists who have adopted and further developed their ideas. Indeed, their work underpins our ability to model and analyze the architectures of new processors, greatly accelerating advances in microprocessor design.

Attesting to the power unleashed by Patterson and Hennessy's work and their impact is Bill Gates' assessment that their contributions "have proven to be fundamental to the very foundation upon which an entire industry flourished."

For creating a principled, scientific framework for designing computer architectures, and for the paradigm-shifting nature of their work, Patterson and Hennessy have been selected to receive the singular recognition conferred by the Turing Award.

Press Release

ACM-IEEE CS Eckert-Mauchly Award

USA - 2008


For seminal contributions to RISC microprocessor architectures, RAID storage systems design, and reliable computing, and for leadership in education and in disseminating academic research results into successful industrial products.

ACM Distinguished Service Award

USA - 2007


For distinguished service to ACM and the computing community, especially in the areas of education, national committees, and professional societies.

Dr. David A. Patterson's sustained service, in a number of forms, has benefited the entire computing community. His creativity, ability to execute, and sheer energy have made computing better respected and better understood in many venues, national and international. His excellence in teaching has served several generations of computer scientists at the University of California directly, and his computer architecture textbooks have served a broader audience.

Over the years Dr. Patterson has maintained a high level of professional service. He served on the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC); was a Board Member and then Chair of the Board of Directors of the Computing Research Association (CRA); served on the National Research Council's Computer Science and Telecommunications Board; and was recently President of the ACM. In each of these roles he has a record of significant accomplishments. As President of ACM he created six major initiatives in the areas of research funding, offshoring, publicity for ACM, the health of professional conferences, high school education, and ACM member communication.

As a member of the National Academy of Engineering's Membership Committee, Dr. Patterson has highlighted the contributions of other outstanding computing researchers, thereby increasing the number of computer scientists annually elected to the NAE. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of ACM, IEEE, and AAAS.

ACM Fellows

USA - 1994


Professor Patterson is a quintessential example of a professor who combines highest intellectual ability and technical expertise with a total dedication to his role as a teacher, mentor, and friend of his students.

ACM Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award

USA - 1991


For his pioneering work on RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing), his course series on RISC that produced a whole generation of academicians, and for his novel approach to teaching computer science to non-CS majors.

It is hard to conceive of a professor who has done more for the advancement of education in computer science and engineering than Professor Patterson. Through his pioneering work on RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing), Professor Patterson has gained national and international recognition as a leader in the advancement of computer technology. But what is equally important is that he has played a major role as an expositor of his ideas through teaching, writing and lecturing.

Professor Patterson's teaching is a striking demonstration of the importance of the interaction between teaching and research. His technique of involving students in team projects to develop innovative computer designs has played a key role in the development of RISC. He led three generations of RISC courses and seminars, involving students in each step of the design, fabrication and testing of a micro computer-on-a-chip. The RISC project not only produced a profound impact on computer technology, it also resulted in a whole generation of academicians. Ten of the participating students have joined academic departments and some of the lead students on the project have won other ACM awards for distinguished dissertations.

He also developed a novel approach to bring more computer science education to non-CS majors at Berkeley. He has transferred his success to other institutions through a textbook that he co-authored with his teaching assistants, Computing Unbound: Using Computers in the Arts and Sciences and its accompanying laboratory manuals.

His latest educational initiative is in his own field, computer architecture. He has co-authored the text Computer Architecture: A Quantitive Approach, and has made videotapes of his lectures available at cost to other universities.

In summary, Professor Patterson is a quintessential exampled of a professor who combines highest intellectual ability and technical expertise with a total dedication to his role as a teacher, mentor, and friend of his students.