In our weekly series, we write about celebrities – artists, actors, musicians, sport stars and scientists – who have some Hungarian origin, yet only few would consider them as “par excellence Hungarians”. In many cases even the persons concerned know/knew only very little about their Hungarian roots, while others are/were proud of their “Magyar” background despite lacking the ability to speak the language of their parents or grandparents. Our thirty-secondtarget is:
Charles Simonyi Hungarian-born American computer programmer, businessman and space tourist, who “invented the Microsoft Excel and the Microsoft Word”.
Charles Simony (original name: Simonyi Károly) American-Hungarian software executive and space tourist was born on the 10th of September. Mr Simonyi was born in Budapest, Hungary son of (older) Károly Simonyi, a professor of electrical engineering at the Technical University of Budapest. The young Charles had shown an interest in computing. While in secondary school he worked part-time as a night watchman at a computer laboratory in early 1960’s, he learned to program from one of the laboratory’s engineers.
By the time he left school, he had learned to develop compilers and sold one of these to a government department. He presented a demonstration of his compiler to the members of a Danish computer trade delegation. Once he said when he was young his dream was, “to get out of Hungary, go to the West and be free.” In 1966 he reached his dream as he left Hungary to work at the Danish computer company Regnecentralen.
Charles Simonyi graduated from the University of California, Berkley, with a degree in engineering mathematics and later earned a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University. After he created a text editor at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center he joined the Microsoft Corporation in 1981. This tome He was head of Microsoft’s application software group, where he oversaw the creation of Microsoft’s flagship Office suite of applications. In addition, at Microsoft he led the development of the widely used software applications Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word. Mr. Simonyi left Microsoft to found his own firm in 2002. He now heads his own company, Intentional Software.
In 2007, with his first trip in the space he became the fifth paying traveler sent into space. Also, he was the second Hungarian in space. After a six-month training program at the Yury Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia, Simonyi launched into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard Soyuz TMA-10 on April 7, 2007, with two Russian cosmonauts, On April 9 he arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), where he spent 11 days performing scientific experiments and communicating via amateur radio with high school students. Simonyi used his Hungarian call sign HA5SIK when he contacted 25 radio amateurs from Hungary in a record attempt on April 12. He contacted former and current students of Tivadar Puskás Polytechnic, Budapest on April 13.
On March 26, 2009, he lifted off with Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and U.S. astronaut Michael Barratt aboard Soyuz TMA-14, a flight to the ISS that made Simonyi the first repeat space tourist.
To learn more about the great Hungarian-born inventor and his work, watch the “The history of microsoft the Charles Simonyi story”;