John Socha

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John Socha-Leialoha (born 1958) is a software developer best known for creating Norton Commander, the first orthodox file manager. The original Norton Commander was written for DOS. Over the years, Socha's design for file management has been extended and cloned many times.

John grew up in the woods of Wisconsin, earned a BS degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Wisconsin–Madison, and his PhD in Applied Physics from Cornell University. He now lives in Bellevue, Washington with his wife. His son, John Avi, is a graduate of the University of Washington.

Starting in September 2010, John began working at Microsoft officially.[1]

Independent work[edit]

In the early days of the IBM PC, John Socha wrote a column for the now defunct magazine Softalk, where he published such programs as ScrnSave, KbdBuffer (extending the keyboard buffer), and Whereis (finding files on a hard disk).

ScrnSave was the first screensaver ever created. John Socha also coined the term screen saver[citation needed]. The built-in screensaver (night sky with stars) was one of the most distinctive features of Norton Commander, along with the famous two-panel blue screen.

When Peter Norton Computing was acquired by Symantec in 1990, John Socha left to found his own company, Socha Computing Inc. The new company developed the Microsoft Plus! add-on pack for Windows 95, and also developed screensavers for Windows 98. In July 1997 Socha Computing was acquired by Asymetrix.

Since October 2003, John has devoted himself to his long-standing hobby of model railroading. He is co-founder of New Rail Models.

In December 2004, John Socha co-authored Optimize Your Pocket PC Development with the .NET Compact Framework for MSDN Magazine.

Norton Commander[edit]

I started work on what became known as the Norton Commander in the fall of 1984 while I was still a graduate student in Applied Physics at Cornell University. The first versions were entirely in assembly language, but that was too time-consuming, so I soon switched to a blend of C and assembly language at a time when most "real programmers" wouldn't touch C.


At the time I called it Visual DOS, with the abbreviation of VDOS instead of the usual two-letter abbreviations used at the time. The program itself was inspired by several things coming together. I had a contract to write some books for Microsoft Press and actually spent some time in Bellevue, WA working on-site. I'd take two months off from graduate school and write a book.


The second book was to be a book of small utility programs like I used to write for Softalk Magazine (such as whereis, scrnsave, etc.), but I never finished writing the book because one small utility took on a life of its own.

— John Socha described his work on NC[1]

John Socha continued work on his VDOS program after joining Peter Norton Computing as their first director of research and development. In 1986 the software product was released under the name of Norton Commander.

Socha also led the development team of Norton Utilities for the Macintosh computer platform.

John has written a number of technical books published under the Peter Norton name, including the best-selling Peter Norton's Assembly Language Book (ISBN 0-13-661901-0).

Other work[edit]

John has many other projects including controllers for train models and mobile application design.

John is a private pilot and owns Daisy, a plane featured in books by Richard Bach.


External links[edit]