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Remembering Bill Shannon

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William (Bill) Shannon, a renowned engineer who was instrumental in the evolution of SunOS, Solaris, and JavaEE while he worked as employee number 11 at Sun Microsystems, passed away last month after a long battle with cancer.

Shannon received his Masters degree in Computer Engineering from Case Western Reserve University. After a brief stint working at Digital Equipment Corporation in the Unix Engineering Group, Shannon was recruited to work at Sun Microsystems in 1982. While at Sun Microsystems, Shannon published many papers and garnered respect and admiration from his peers and colleagues. Well-known for his technical prowess and prolific work ethic, Shannon led a group of SunOS Distinguished Engineers who created Solaris. He then went on to lead the design and development efforts of JavaEE, to make Java run as an application server environment.


Shannon's iconic 'Unix' license plate - courtesy of Karen Shannon

InfoQ reached out to Sharat Chander, senior director, Java Product Management & Developer Relations, for a comment. He fondly remembers Shannon and had this to say: "Bill was one of the most quietly humble experts in the technology world. Most developers don’t realize just how important Bill was towards driving Java innovation. History must never forget his name and his contributions to Java. For me personally, it was Bill who advocated in 2009 that I should be the JavaOne Conference Chairperson. I was dumbfounded by this. Wanting to know why, Bill said, 'Because you’re the right person for the job.' And, so far 9 years I tried my best to ensure I lived up to Bill’s expectations in the role. I’ll never forget how he personally supported my career behind the scenes. I’m forever grateful."

Josh Long, Spring developer advocate, said this about Shannon: "I never had the privilege of working with him directly, but he embodies what I love most about the JVM community: tireless, patient dedication and applied elbow grease. He was a giant and we are lucky, today, to be able to stand on his shoulders."

You can read about a few interesting accounts about Shannon that were compiled by David Rosenthal with assistance from Shannon's longtime friends.

Shannon’s contributions to the IT industry are immeasurable and he will be deeply missed within the Unix and Java communities. According to David Rosenthal's blog post, Shannon's farewell email had this as the subject line:

public static final void goodbye() { /**NORETURN*/ }

Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

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