Howard Palmer got his start in computing in 1969, as a junior in high school, through the NASA Ames Student Space Biology Program. Together with Steve Colley, another high school student at Ames, they conceived and implemented the original Maze program on the Imlac PDS-1. Howard and Steve continued to work at Ames in a small group of students under the direction of Jim Hart. Mainly through the use of Imlac workstations, this group greatly expanded the availability of interactive computer graphics to researchers at Ames.
This group was also central to early networking research at Ames. They designed and implemented hardware and software to support a network of Imlac workstations, served by a custom operating system on an IBM 1800. Howard implemented an ARPAnet Network Control Program (NCP) running on DOS-11 on a PDP-11/45. That may help to explain why Howard's undergraduate adviser at Stanford, Vint Cerf, was unable to interest him in working on a new protocol, called TCP/IP. As he explained to Dr. Cerf, "I've done networking. I came here to get into artificial intelligence."
Howard soon became disillusioned with AI, at least as it was practiced at that time, and did eventually wise up about networking, building a long career around TCP/IP and other protocols, and ultimately winning financial freedom in the lottery that was Netscape.
Since early 2001, he has been taking a break to pursue personal interests. Besides life, the universe, and everything, these interests still include artificial intelligence, which Howard feels is finally on the right track. His most recent projects have been in the area of genetic programming.