Interviewed by David Brock, Hansen Hsu and John Markoff on 2017-02-21 in Mountain View CA, X8111.2017 © Computer History Museum
Born of Armenian parents in 1961, into a working class, entrepreneurial family, Avadis "Avie" Tevanian grew up in New England, the oldest of four boys. His dad a machinist, from a young age, Avie and his brothers were into building things, but Avie alone showed a particular aptitude for mathematics.
Having been introduced to a PDP-8 in high school, Avie enrolled at the University of Rochester after discovering they had a lab of Xerox Altos, on which he wrote several games and contributed to research. Avie continued on to graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University. Working under Professor Rick Rashid, another Rochester graduate, Avie started the Mach microkernel project, which quickly grew to over a dozen people. Based on concepts from Rashid’s Accent operating system, Mach was to be an improvement on Accent by targeting parallel processors, be highly portable, and be able to run BSD Unix programs.
Engineers at Steve Jobs’ NeXT Computer decided they wanted to use Mach for NeXT’s operating system after they saw the work presented at a UNIX conference in 1986. Avie later attended a dinner in Palo Alto where Steve first relayed that interest. After finishing his diss…