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Memorial Tributes, Volume 14
incorporated into the UNIX system and was first released in 1984 under the name “X Window.” In 1988 Michael formed the “X Consortium” to produce a standard X Window system that would operate across computer platforms and operating systems. To this day, X Window continues to be a standard way of working across networked computers running Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Unix, or Linux.
When the World Wide Web first started to take off, Michael conceived of a consortium in which member companies could work together to set standards, using academia as a neutral ground where decisions could be made. He persuaded the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, to come to MIT and lead this effort. Since the mid-1990s, the World Wide Web consortium has been the leading force in maintaining coherence in the Web, providing standards for interoperability so that a multitude of browsers can access information from many different servers.
Michael: The Educator
Michael played a large role in bringing information technology into education at MIT. In 1982, for example, he co-founded a major educational project called Project Athena (named, following Michael’s suggestion, after the Greek goddess of wisdom). The goal of Project Athena was to provide campus-wide computing infrastructure for education. Michael was instrumental in recruiting industrial participation, and he was on the executive committee for Project Athena for several years.
Michael was a quintessential teacher, and he taught in the most effective and endearing ways, through inspiration, by example, and always with passion. In his final interview, printed in the Chronicle of Higher Education a few days before his death, Michael spoke about the qualities that he valued most in teachers—qualities that were a fundamental part of his own approach to his interactions with the MIT community. In explaining his skepticism of computer-based distance education, Michael said, “Don’t forget the impact that love has on education. If you are loved by your teacher—and I