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Biographies -- An Wang, 1920-1990 Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129773D
Original Publication Date: 1993-Apr-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 16 page(s) / 63K

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Software Patent Institute

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Eloge: An Wang, 1920-1990

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Copyright ©; 1992 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Biographies -- An Wang, 1920-1990

ERIC A. WEISS, EDITOR P. O. Box 537 Kailua, HI 96734 USA

Eloge: An Wang, 1920-1990

An Wang, originator of the essential concept on which the magnetic- core memory was based, astonishingly successful computer entrepreneur with legendary business acumen, and venerated philanthropist, whose name was long synonymous with word processing, died in Boston on March 24, 1990 of esophagus cancer, with which he had been struggling for a year. He was 70.

This material is drawn largely from Wang's 1986 didactic autobiography,1 which is also a triumphant recounting of the founder's view of the history of Wang Laboratories. To avoid clutter, the autobiography will not be referenced repeatedly.

Early Life in China.

An Wang was born in Shanghai, China, on February 7,1920, the second child and eldest son of the five children of Yin Lu Wang, a teacher of English and a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, and Z.W. Chien, his wife. His name, An Wang, means "peaceful king." Until he was six years old, he lived in the Shanghai compound of his mother's family. Then his family moved to his father's ancestral city, Kun San (Kunshan), about 30 miles west of Shanghai. Here Wang started his formal education in the private elementary school where his father taught. Because the school lacked the first two grades, he had to start in the third. As a consequence, for the rest of his education in China, he was always two years younger than his classmates, a situation which he said put him at a great disadvantage but from which, in the long run, he benefited because he found that he could quickly learn to swim when faced with the alternative of sinking.

He discovered early on that he was good at mathematics but had difficulty with subjects requiring rote memorization, and he always had a hard time concentrating on subjects, like political doctrine, that did not interest him. His father started teaching him English at home when he was four years old. His paternal grandmother diligently tutored him in Confucianism, which he later called "the practical philosophy that has profoundly influenced Chinese character," and which embodied the principles of moderation, patience, balance, and simplicity that he later concluded were important to success in business. Wang also ascribed to Confucianism his belief that a sense of satisfaction comes from service to one's community.

During these school years he found that, although he did poorly during the term in the nonscientific subjects that did not interest him, by concentrating at the term end he could always perform well enough on the final exams to get by. This added to his confidence that he could rise to the occasion when the situation demanded it.

By the time Wang was 11 the bloody struggle with...