Industry great Kurt Akeley retires

Contributed immensely to 3D graphics architecture and definition of OpenGL.

After an amazing career spanning the first days of SGI through today at Google (with a Ph.D. from Stanford along the way), Kurt Akeley will be retiring this week.

(Source: SIGGRAPH)

Kurt is one of those guys who was there when things started, lots of things in his case. He’s also one of those go-to guys, at least he was for me. I’ve seen him patiently and (to my amazement) politely listen to a stupid question, give that award-winning smile of his, and say, “Well….”

Always accessible, always the smartest person in the room, but never saying so, and always a step or two ahead of us.

One of my fondest memories is a discussion we had in a bar lounge in Japan during the early 2000s, arguing with Neil Trevett of Khronos about the differences between a shader and GP processor, when Kurt and I looked at each other and one of us said —you do realize we’re agreeing with each other.

Fact is, I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with him, but I have tweaked him a few times.

I just finished a book on the history of the GPU, and Kurt is prominently featured in it. Without his GL and its subsequent manifestations, we wouldn’t have a GPU.

I hope I’ll find him lurking in the hallways of SIGGRAPH and wish him a proper and in-person bon voyage and THANK YOU.