Russell Noftsker

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Russell Noftsker is an American entrepreneur who notably founded Symbolics, and was its first chairman and president.


Russell Noftsker was born February 1942 and went through his education to high school in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Steven Levy described Noftsker as "A compactly built blond with pursed features and blue eyes". Noftsker earned a degree in engineering from New Mexico State University and was hired in 1965 by Marvin Minsky to replace MIT's administrator of the AI Lab, Dan Edwards, who had recently left that post. He would later hire Richard Stallman as a systems programmer for the lab.

Lisp machines and Symbolics[edit]

Main article: Lisp machine

He left the Lab in 1973 "under duress" (according to Levy), but would later return to the Lab. Having followed Richard Greenblatt's development of the early Lisp machine, Noftsker proposed that the two of them commercialize the technology. Greenblatt initially accepted, but differences over business strategy and direction split the two apart February 1979, each forming their own company. Noftsker formed Symbolics with Robert Adams and a number of AI Lab hackers, taking on the role of president and chairman; Greenblatt would eventually start Lisp Machines Inc.

Noftsker was forced out of Symbolics completely by the board in 1988 after an internal battle with the then CEO Brian Sear. He had already been forced to resign his presidency April 1984 by the board, retaining his chairmanship.

In 1994 at the suggestion of Richard Bond and other members of the community he formed a group which bought the assets of the company out of bankruptcy. He combined it with a small company which he had formed around an earlier Symbolics spin off Macsyma which was selling mathematical software.

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