Author Archives: Storey Blackwell

The 2012 Domino Award Trip Experience

A Visit to High Tech Mecca

As part of the Domino Award, recipients are taken on a trip to see technological innovation first-hand. This year we took 2012 winner, John Lenz, and 2011’s winners, Valerie Chang and Ian Smith on a two day whirlwind tour in the San Francisco Bay Area. 2010 Domino Award winner, Katie Corner joined us, as she now call the Bay Area home, and helped to arrange our lodging and schedules for the trip. We had a slightly ominous start with a 1.5 hr. flight delay, then a bit of a fiasco with Hertz, resulting in missing our meeting with Chase McMichael, President and CEO of  InfiniGraph.

Our first stop kicked things off with a bang when we met with Silicon Valley Veteran, Bill Coleman.  Bill, your sage advice will ring in our ears for years.  We were honored that you fit us into your busy schedule.

Next, we were off to Twilio where we got a behind-the-scenes look at one of the hottest companies in the Bay Area.  Bixby & Kyle, thanks for the great demo, tour, and our first bounty of t-shirts.

We wrapped up the day at Dropbox.  Of course, in standard Bay Area style, we had dinner at the office (for me, prime rib, yes please).   I’ve been around a lot of “cool” tech companies over the years and I have to say that I (along with everyone else) was pretty blown away by Dropbox’s offices.  Matt, thanks for staying late, and sharing your story of how one thing led to another with you joining Dropbox.

The next day we had the pleasure of watching one of the space shuttles make it’s final flight. It was off schedule, throwing off our schedule, but none of us will ever forget the sight.  What a way to start the day!

Our time was short at Facebook, but we had the opportunity to get a feel for the work environment and how they approach recruiting.  Adam, thanks for showing us around, and telling those Instagram guys that we plan to pull up a chair in their “garage” next time we’re around.

Next was a sushi lunch at Google (what else would you expect).  Thanks to Paul, Max, Amer, and Nick for giving us a comprehensive view of life at Google.  I’m not sure any of us could exactly put into words our feelings about Google, but as Katie pointed out (and we all agreed) “it’s like going to geek Disneyland.”

Saturday we had a perfectly beautiful day touring the sites of San Francisco with my friend Ben Runyan.  Over lunch in China Town, Ben educated us about Xylinx’s latest programmable ICs and their use in the broadcast industry.  Ben, thanks for taking time out of your weekend to show us around.

Truly, this was a trip that all of us will never forget.  Thanks to everyone for hosting us, Katie for making all of the arrangements, and to the generous sponsors who made the trip possible.

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2012 Domino Award Winning Essay

The Innovator

written by John Lanz

Behind the success of Xerox, Windows, Apple, Atari, Walt Disney Imagineering, HP Labs, and even the NASDAQ are technologies developed by the brilliance of a few masterminds, one of whom is computer scientist and innovator, Alan Kay. His contributions not only led to the astonishing advancement in countless technological companies but his inventiveness has shaped the very way the world communicates in the realm of technology and software. The effects of Kay’s influences are hard to fathom, his name is most commonly associated with the development of object-oriented programming and graphical user interface. However, his pioneering of automated computer program trading and his love for teaching may not be as well known.

In 1968, being ahead of his time, Kay foresaw the nitch for computers in the stock market. With the NASD, National Association of Securities Dealers, and the NYSE, New York Stock Exchange, dragging their feet on implementing new technologies, Kay ceased the opportunity to create the first automated exchange system, naming it AutEx. The invention of the AutEx computer console allowed for users to transfer messages of their desired trades in the stock exchanges. The user’s needs would then be broadcast to all subscribed brokers who would then proceed with the transaction. At first Kay’s innovative design drew much skepticism amongst the NYSE brokers, worried for the securities of their jobs. Nevertheless, the AutEx eventually caught the NASD’s attention leading to the development of their unique automated trading system. Soon others would develop more sophisticated systems such as Instinet, created by Jerome Pustilnik.

Eventually the NYSE joined the NASD and took to the idea of the automated trading. In time technology took a stronger hold in exchanges across the world, allowing markets to become global and real-time. With automated trading the markets saw great growth due to the abilities a computer has not only with accounting but with the aptitude and capacity to organize and create an electronically controlled system dealing with thousands of numbers and users from across the world. Ultimately in 1970 the NASD announced a new exchange, the NASDAQ, National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, which adapted to the rise of computer system’s automated technology whom Alan Kay originally created.

Not only has Kay jump-started the use of technology in the stock market, he is acknowledged as an invaluable person in the creation of object-oriented programming (OOP), which he named, at PARC, Palo Alto Research Center Incorporated, and at the Norwegian Computing Center. The implications of OOP are immense. It has enabled the design of fundamental languages such as: C++, Objective-C, Java, Ruby, Python, and many more. Additionally Kay created the Dynabook, a mobile computer or “laptop” that was intended to deliver digital media to children in the form of a personal computer. Looking at his prototype design one can see the resemblance between Alan Kay’s Dynabook and Steve Job’s Ipad.

Kay’s visionary ideas to bring technology into the hands of children did not end with the Dynabook but has continued on in his active involvement in the One Laptop Per Child program. They supply laptops to children in the developing world enabling youth to learn about technologies, specifically computers; subsequently enabling the growth of computer science in the third world, a critical component in the growth of people and countries in today’s society. This nonprofit organization, in which Kay has been a key member, has inspired giant technological companies such as AMD, eBay, Google, Marvell, and News Corporation to participate thus allowing One Laptop Per Child an even bigger opportunity to promote growth and change.

Being a key member of the computer science community Alan Kay has not only influenced the subjects of software and hardware but he has been an influential member of society from changing the way the world does business to creating opportunities for children in need. This computer scientist has done more than just topple the first domino in the chain of innovation. He has created paths and opportunities in which the brightest and most active members of his field have followed him, making monumental discoveries every step of the way.


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The Domino Award – A History Lesson

November 2007

This branch has several purposes:

  1. To inspire computer science students at the University of Colorado and open new and exciting opportunities for students, possibly leading to them set their own branches in motion.
  2. To honor leading computer scientists who have made an important and lasting impact on the world.
  3. To show through example that it’s good to “give back” to your alma mater.

Here are the specifics:

The Domino Award is given annually to two Computer Science students for an outstanding essay honoring the impact that other computer scientists have made on modern society.

The 2007/2008 Domino Award will presented on April 14 (new date), and all entrants will be invited to join the festivities.  The awards banquet will include presentations from leading technologists, a “Domino Topple”, short presentations from the finalists, and culminate with announcing this year’s winners.   The two winners will each receive $500 in cash, and an all expenses paid invitation to attend the next Telluride Tech Fest in beautiful Telluride Colorado.

All entrants will receive a #0000003 domino with a unique serial number.  These dominoes will be used to help track the impact and reach of this topple.

January 2008

I am pleased to announce that Bill Coleman has generously agreed to be the keynote speaker at the Domino Awards banquet to be held April 8th. Bill exemplifies the notion of a “Toppler,” and I know the students will be inspired by his story.

Bill has been at the helm of some of the most important technology companies of the last two decades. Also, together with his wife Claudia, he founded the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities.

I’ve yet to meet Bill, but I’ve heard so much about him over the years. I’m truly honored that he’s agreed to help with this year’s Domino Award.

It’s ironic that I’m making this announcement this week, while at the same time Oracle Corp. is buying Bill’s last company, BEA Systems, for $8.5 billion.  Transactions of that size set in motion countless topples – and Bill was instrumental in making that possible.  Under his leadership as the original CEO and first chairman of the Board, BEAbecame the fastest software firm to exceed $1 billion in annual revenue.

Currently, Bill is the founder, chairman of the board, and chief executive officer of Cassatt Corporation, an organization that helps companies run green data centers with innovative software to improve resource, operational, and energy efficiencies.

Before Cassatt and BEA, he was vice president of system software at Sun Microsystems, where Coleman’s team transformed SunOS into the commercially successful Solaris operating system. While at Sun he also founded Sun’s Professional Services Division and co-founded Sun’s Federal Division.

He began his career in the U.S. Air Force where he served as chief of satellite operations in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. He is also chairman of the board of directors for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the U.S. Air Force Academy and master’s degrees in computer science and computer engineering from Stanford University. He also has an honorary doctorate from the University of Colorado.

Again, I can’t express enough how honored I am to have Bill speak at this year’s award banquet.  It’s all about “setting big things in motion” – something Bill knows a lot about!

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Spaceport America Video

In November of 2010 Topplers sponsored a trip to Spaceport America in New Mexico for that years Domino Award winners.  The video can be found on YouTube.

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2011 Domino Award Corporate Sponsors

In 2011, Topplers raised a record amount of financial support for the Domino Award thanks in part to generosity of the following corporate sponsors:

Adeptive Software

Applied Trust





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2011 Domino Award Essays

Yukihiro Matsumoto’s invention of Ruby by Ian Smith

The Humble Beginnings of Punch Cards by Valerie Chang

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2010 Domino Award Essays

Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart: Masterminding the Mouse by Katherine A. Corner

Ed Roberts and the Altair 8800 by Doug Stillings

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2009 Domino Award Essays

The Invention of the Transistor by Michael Ton

Bill Gates by Jon Mai


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2008 Domino Award Essays

Daniel Bricklin: Not just a Software Developer by Alan Versteeg

Domino Theory: A Tribute to Raymond Kurzweil by: John French

Grace Hopper: Dominos Two-Fold by Kelly Anne K. Shuster

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