John Harrison Wharton

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John H. Wharton
John Harrison Wharton.jpg
Born(1954-09-21)September 21, 1954[1]
DiedNovember 14, 2018(2018-11-14) (aged 64)[2] [1]
ResidenceSan Francisco Bay Area
Alma mater
Engineering career
  • Intel
  • Applications Research
Significant designIntel MCS-51

John Harrison Wharton (21 September 1954 – 14 November 2018) was an American engineer specializing in microprocessors and their applications. Wharton designed the Intel MCS-51, one of the most implemented instruction set architectures of all time.

Education and career[edit]

John Wharton graduated from Northwestern University in January 1977 with a Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a Master's degree in computer science, having earlier attended Yale University for two years before transferring to Northeastern.[3] He was hired by Intel at the instigation of Tom Rolander,[4] working there for 5 years before leaving to start his consulting company, Applications Research.[3] He was a founding member of the editorial board of Microprocessor Report.[5] He first spoke at the Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop in 1980, along with Carver Mead, Jim Clark, Dave Patterson and Gary Kildall.[6] He first chaired a session in 1983, and became Chair of the workshop in 1985, a position he continued to hold through 1997. He was Program Chair from 1999 through 2017.[6] From 1989 to 2004, with Dennis Allison, he coordinated Stanford University's EE380 course.[7]

J. H. Wharton was the architect of the instruction set of the Intel MCS-51,[3] commonly known as the 8051. The MCS-51 and its derivatives are Intel's highest volume microprocessor,[8] and among the most implemented instruction set architectures of all time.[2][3]

Wharton was the subject of a 1999 New York Times profile,[8] and a 2001 article about his trips to Fiji to collect debris from the deorbit of the Mir space station.[9] In 1996 he appeared on Late Night with David Letterman.[8][10]


  1. ^ a b "John Wharton", San Jose Mercury News, December 6, 2018, retrieved December 6, 2018
  2. ^ a b Orlowski, Andrew (November 19, 2018), "Influential Valley gadfly and Intel 8051 architect John Wharton has died", The Register, archived from the original on November 19, 2018, retrieved November 28, 2018
  3. ^ a b c d Intel 8051 Microprocessor Oral History Panel (PDF), Computer History Museum, September 16, 2008, archived (PDF) from the original on February 25, 2012, retrieved November 17, 2018
  4. ^ Legacy of Gary Kildall: The CP/M IEEE Milestone Dedication, Computer History Museum via YouTube, April 25, 2014, archived from the original on August 1, 2014, retrieved November 21, 2018
  5. ^ Slater, Michael (August 25, 1997), "Looking Back on Ten Years of MPR: Personal History of MicroDesign Resources" (PDF), Microprocessor Report, archived (PDF) from the original on October 3, 2018, retrieved November 17, 2018
  6. ^ a b Programs from the Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop 1975-2018 (PDF), Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop, April 25, 2018, archived (PDF) from the original on August 18, 2018, retrieved November 17, 2018
  7. ^ Wharton, John (July 22, 1998), The Chip that Wouldn't Die: A 20-Year Retrospective, Stanford University, archived from the original on November 18, 2018, retrieved November 17, 2018
  8. ^ a b c Hafner, Katie (June 17, 1999), "Reinvent the Wheel? This Software Engineer Deconstructs It", New York Times, archived from the original on May 27, 2015, retrieved November 17, 2018
  9. ^ Markoff, John (April 24, 2001), "My Fiji Souvenirs: Shells, Driftwood, Space Debris . . .", New York Times, archived from the original on December 23, 2009, retrieved November 30, 2018
  10. ^ Bay Area Man Relives Time He Disrobed On Late Show With David Letterman, KPIX-TV, May 14, 2015, archived from the original on May 19, 2015, retrieved November 18, 2018