Craig Thompson

Personal Bio

This personal bio is meant to convince students that I was once human and, like many other people, I have a family and grew up in something like the normal way.  To orient you, here are some pictures from my life.


First, some family history It was Lord Stanley, my Mother's Father's ancestor, who took the crown off of Richard III as he was dying and crowned their half-brother Henry VII (1485).  My great uncle-in-laws great grandfather Don Juan Bandini led a rebellion and conquered Los Angeles in 1837.  He owned Casa De Bandini, later a restaurant in Old Town, San Diego.  My Mother's grandfather was born in Germany in 1818, came to the U.S. in time for the Gold Rush, eventually settled down on a farm in Kansas at age 65, married a 16 year old German immigrant, and they had six daughters.  My mother's mother was born in 1883, left Kansas by herself on a five day train ride to Los Angeles in 1900, and was the highest paid executive secretary in Los Angeles around 1910.  My father's father, as a young teen in the early 1910s, worked in a medical school in Chicago putting Vaseline preservative on corpses.  In the 1920's, he moved to LA and in the 1930's he ran the teletype office for Bell Telephone in LA - very high tech.  My Mother's uncle Carl Stanley managed the Hotel Del Monte in Monterey, California, for twenty or so years until it became the U.S. Naval Post Graduate School.  My mother was a WAVE in San Diego during WW II, encrypting and decrypting messages for the U.S. Navy.  My father predicted wave conditions for landings in WW II, saw the U.S. flag raised on Iwo Jima, was the last man off the aircraft carrier Bismarck Sea when it was sunk in 1945 (more here), was in the first class of oceanography Ph.D.s to graduate from Texas A&M in 1950, and was a Professor at the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey and also an expert witness on coastline property disputes.

I was born in August 1949, in the first half of the last century before there were higher level programming languages!  When we lived for a year in Franklin, Louisiana, when I was around 2, we had an ice box, not a refrigerator.  Also, no air conditioning back then.  I grew up in Monterey, California, and collected marbles, lizards, butterflies, stamps, and coins through grade school. We did not have a TV until I was 9.  [I did not have a color TV until I was 29 nor cable until 2003 nor a cell phone until 2006.]  I went to Sussex House Boys Preparatory School in London for a year when I was 11 and learned to play cricket and rugby.  My father worked for Office of Naval Research that year.  I think I learned to read that year, because London was far enough north that in the winter it was dark when I went to school and dark when I came home.  I read all of Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, CS Lewis, Tolkien, and thereafter many other authors.  Around that time, I was in love with Halley Mills who starred in Parent Trap and Pollyanna.  When I was 16, 18, and 20, I spent summers bicycling and taking trains around Britain and Italy - lots of plays, cathedrals, castles, and great houses.  I collected brass rubbings while it was still possible to have that hobby.

I went to Stanford (1967-1971), majored in Math, but took as many computer and English courses as I could.  I did not "get" programming when I took my first course, a graduate Algol class, as a sophomore and so I tried to drop the class, but Professor Hennessey would not let me!  I studied so hard for the final that I got a solid A -- the material was finally making sense even as I was taking the exam.  The final raised my grade to a C for the course!  After that, it was Bs and As, even an occasional Best in Class.  (So there is hope for you too!)  I took a number of graduate CS courses because there was no CS undergraduate major way back then. I considered the Grand Challenge problems of that day and decided that artificial intelligence, especially natural language processing, was the grandest. 

I went to University of Texas in Austin for graduate studies in 1971.  As a TA and later an instructor, I taught courses in structured programming, assembly language, and data structures.  I programmed a STRIPS robot in Fortran and demonstrated that the entire search space was much smaller than the original paper conjectured, only a few thousand distinct states.  My interest in natural language processing allowed me to mix the science genes inherited from my father and the humanities genes inherited from my mother.  Thereafter, I spent around 16 years, focusing on computational linguistics.  Natural language took me to knowledge representation which took me to databases which took me to middleware and on to agents and grids and eventually to the Internet of Things (my everything is alive project), RFID and 3D virtual worlds. See my professional bio or CV for the details.

My career in computing has been central to my life.  I viewed a research career in computing as a chance to change the world.  Along the way, I am especially proud of co-inventing menu-based natural language interfaces and co-developing and helping to standardize the world's first service-oriented architectures.  But I have enjoyed learning about and working on a diversity of technologies (see my vita) from many viewpoints:  individual contributions, research management, standards, intellectual property, small business, and professor.  The world is an interesting place and growing more interesting as we learn more about it year to year.  It has also been interesting to meet historic people over my career: US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh who with Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard set the record in 1960 for the deepest descent below the ocean's surface in the bathyscaph - 35,800 ft. in the Marianas Trench; Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper who co-invented COBOL in 1959-1961; Jack Kilby who invented the integrated circuit in 1958; George Heilmeier who invented liquid crystal displays in the mid-1960s; Ted Nelson who coined the word hypermedia around 1965; Douglas Englebart who invented the mouse in 1968; Ray Tomlinson who invented email in 1971; Mike Stonebraker and Larry Rowe who ran the Ingres DBMS project around 1976; Peter Chen who developed the ER data model around 1976; Dan Bricklin who co-invented spreadsheets in 1979; my grad school office mate Gary Hendrix who founded Symantec in 1982; Bjarne Stroustrup who designed and implemented C++ around 1985; Roger Bates who led development of the Capability Maturity Model for software development; Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web in 1989; Richard Soley who led the Object Management Group 1989 onwards; and Mic Bowman who worked on the Harvest search engine, a progenitor to the Google search engine.  Other great computer scientists I have met or worked with and admired include:  Don Knuth, Michael Stonebraker, Randy Katz, Gio Wiederhold, Jeff Ullman, Lotfi Zedah, Barry Leiner, Peter Denning, and Harry Tennant.

Back on a personal level, Jan and I met by the pool at Lake Trace Apartments in Austin in February 1974 while I was studying for my graduate qualifying exams.  She was 22 and I was 25.  How time flies when you are having fun!  We have since lived in Austin, San Marcos, Knoxville, Plano, and now Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The best part of my life has been raising our two daughters:

I retired from U Arkansas in 2014 so now I am Professor Emeritus. My hobbies include family history, travel, hiking, reading about archaeology, and thinking about writing children's stories. A former hobby for several years was thinking about collecting Classics Illustrated comic books until I finally started collecting them and now have most of them.  You might wish to argue with me but I think that the Waltons and Buffy were pretty good TV shows (though kind of different). And I liked George RR Martins Game of Thrones.

My main advice for raising children is this - read to your children every night and always stay interested in their activities. Let them know you are proud of them.  You might note, I returned to teaching after 23 years in industry.  My children had left home so I needed some new ones.  My advice on careers is "be the head and not the tail" (do not let life happen to you), aim high, work hard and achieve much and your career will grow increasingly interesting.  Also, work with the best people you can and help others around you succeed.