John Walker (programmer)
|This biographical article relies on references to primary sources. (April 2013)|
In 1982, Walker and 12 other programmers pooled $59,000 to start Autodesk, and began working on several computer applications. The first to be completed was AutoCAD, a software application for computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting. AutoCAD which had begun life as InteractCAD, written by programmer Michael Riddle in a proprietary language; Walker and Riddle rewrote the program, and had a profit-sharing agreement for any product derived from InteractCAD. Walker subsequently paid Riddle US$10 million for all the rights.
By mid-1986, the company had grown to 255 employees with annual sales of over $40 million. That year, Walker resigned as chairman and president of the company, continuing to work as a programmer.  In 1989, Walker's book, The Autodesk File, was published. It describes his experiences at Autodesk, based around internal documents (particularly email) of the company.
Walker moved to Switzerland in 1991. By 1994, when he resigned from the company, it was the sixth-largest personal computer software company in the world, primarily from the sales of AutoCAD. Walker owned about $45 million of stock in Autodesk at the time.
Walker now engages in personal projects, including a hardware random number generator called HotBits and his Earth and Moon viewer. He publishes on his personal domain, fourmilab.ch (after his nickname for his personal workshop, Fourmilab; fourmi is the French word for ant and, located near CERN, "Fourmilab" is a pun on "Fermilab"). He is known for his book The Hacker's Diet, a guide to approaching weight loss "as both an engineering and a management problem." He is also known for his efforts in the 196 Palindrome Quest, by taking it to 1,000,000 digits.
Walker is a social advocate who has written many articles, including a well-known one about Internet censorship called The Digital Imprimatur. He gained notoriety during the fall of the Soviet Union for creating a bumper sticker that announced, "Evil Empires: One down, one to go", with a United States flag next to a crossed-out flag of the Soviet Union.
In popular culture
Walker's interest in artificial life prompted him to hire Rudy Rucker, a mathematician and science fiction author, for work on cellular automata software. Rudy later drew from his experience at Autodesk in Silicon Valley for his novel The Hacker and the Ants, in which one of the characters is loosely based on John Walker. Part of the book takes place in Switzerland in a very Fourmilab-like setting.
- Walker, John. ANIMAL Source Code. fourmilab.ch
- John R. McCarty (May 30, 1986). "Micro-miracle: Autodesk has 'image' of success". The Pittsburgh Press.
- John Markoff (April 28, 1994). "Autodesk Founder Saddles Up and Leaves - New York Times". The New York Times.
- "Telling the Story Behind Autodesk". New Straits Times. November 2, 1989.
- John Walker. "The Autodesk File: Bits of History, Words of Experience". Fourmilab Switzerland.
- Walker, John. "HotBits: Genuine random numbers, generated by radioactive decay". fourmilab.ch. Retrieved 2006-03-30.
- Walker, John. "Earth and Moon Viewer". fourmilab.ch. Retrieved 2006-03-30.
- Walker, John. "Fourmilab ~80min from CERN". fourmilab.ch.
- Walker, John. "Fourmilab FAQ". fourmilab.ch.
- Walker, John. "Evil Empires Bumper Sticker". fourmilab.ch. Retrieved 2011-04-24.
- John Walker's home page
- John Walker's blog
- John Walker's essay "The Digital Imprimatur" about the threats of the internet
- Three Years of Computing — Reaching 1,000,000 digits in the 196 Palindrome Quest