For his contributions to society in the development of real-time embedded software products including those used in the Mars Pathfinder and Stardust projects.
Jerry Fiddler began his career in real-time minicomputer control systems at Lawrence Berkeley Lab, controlling large physics devices like nuclear accelerators and a fusion reactor. Drawing on that experience, he was a pioneer of using the then-new microprocessors to replace minicomputers and mainframes to create the field of embedded computing. The company he founded and led for 23 years, Wind River, created the VxWorks operating system that controls myriad devices, from the large (submarines, power plants) to the small (anti-lock brakes, telephones). VxWorks is known for its reliability in devices like the control computer for the Boeing 787, internet switches and routers, defibrillators and patient bedside monitors. By being the first to bring full networking to the embedded world, Wind River enabled what is now called IoT (internet of things). Today, VxWorks is in hundreds of millions (perhaps billions) of devices that people use every day, without even knowing that they’re using a computer. Perhaps a few of his favorite applications are in outer space. The Mars rovers run on the VxWorks operating system that he helped to create, as do numerous other space probes, satellites and landers.
After leaving Wind River in 2003, Fiddler became an angel investor and adviser, helping to create and fund numerous startups. He created and became the principal of Zygote Ventures, which funds early stage startups. He was chairman of Solazyme, the first biotech that used algae to create oil and foods, and served as a board director to numerous other companies in tech and biotech. He also acts as a “mentor” with several other venture funds, helping various companies and executives.
Fiddler was board president and interim CEO of Chabot Space and Science Center. He has been a trustee of the California Jazz Conservatory, the Mathematics Science and Research Institute, and was on the University of California president’s advisory board.
Fiddler created his own unique path while completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He studied five different undergrad majors and finished with a double major in music and photography, followed by a master’s degree in computer science. This led him to create The Jerry Fiddler Innovation Endowment Fund at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, to foster those who have interests and passions that don’t fit within any existing major or school.
Fiddler is still a serious amateur musician and photographer. You can find links to his music and photography at jerryfiddler.com.
- BS, Individual Plan of Study, Liberal Arts & Sciences, 1974
- MS, Computer Science, The Grainger College of Engineering, 1977