Three professors who pioneered an important method for improving software and hardware reliability have won this year's AM Turing Award.
The professors - Edmund Clarke of Carnegie Mellon University, E. Allen Emerson of the University of Texas at Austin and Joseph Sifakis of the University of Grenoble in France - were recognised by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) for their work in developing model checking, an automated method used to find design flaws in computer hardware and software. The Turing Award is given out every year by the ACM to individuals who make "contributions of a technical nature made to the computing community" that "should be of lasting and major technical importance to the computer field.
ACM describes the Turing Award as its most prestigious, and Turing winners share a US$250,000 prize.
Carnegie Mellon's website describes model checking as "a method for formally verifying finite-state concurrent systems" where "specifications about the system are expressed as temporal logic formulas, and efficient symbolic algorithms are used to traverse the model defined by the system and check if the specification holds or not." Essentially, model checking analyses a model's underlying design to check if programming code fits in with the overall design requirements.
"The influence of model checking on both theory and practice has been tremendous, but the full impact is still ahead of us," says Peter Lee, the head of Carnegie Mellon's computer science department. "Ideas based on model checking are getting closer to new software development methods that may, for the first time, give us programs that actually work as specified."
The ACM has been handing out the Turing Award since 1967. The award, which is named after British mathematician Alan Turing, has previously been given to famed programmers such as Sketchpad inventor Ivan Sutherland FORTRAN programming language inventor John Backus, and MIT AI laboratory co-founder Marvin Minsky.
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