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Computer Pioneer and Technology Entrepreneur Jim Thornton Dies.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Computer pioneer James E. (Jim) Thornton died Tuesday of cardiovascular failure. He was 79 years old. Thornton helped engineer Control Data Corporation's first supercomputer prior to starting a company that helped launch the computer networking industry.

Thornton was born in St. Paul in 1925, the son of Irish immigrants. He attended Cretin High School (now Cretin-Derham Hall) and entered the Navy to serve in World War II. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1950 and joined Engineering Research Associates (ERA), where he met Seymour Cray and William Norris. Together they developed one of the world's first computers. Thornton joined Norris, who had left ERA to build Control Data, in 1958. There he teamed with Seymour Cray in the development of Control Data's first supercomputer.

Thornton launched Network Systems in 1974 to develop devices that connected computers to one another at very high speeds. Network Systems' first product, Hyperchannel, answered the growing need for communications networks among larger computer users. Later products served less-powerful computer networks, and also included communications software and fiberoptic communications systems.

Network Systems became one of Minnesota's most successful public offerings in 1980. Thornton retired as chair of the board in 1990 and Louisville, Colo.-based StorageTek purchased the company in 1995.

Thornton served on the boards of Cretin High School, the University of St. Thomas and several technology companies, and was an active financial contributor to several causes including children's health care.

His wife of 53 years, Gloria, seven children and 15 grandchildren survive him. Visitation will be held from 4-8 p.m. Friday at O'Halloran & Murphy in St. Paul and the funeral at St. Mark's Catholic Church in St. Paul. Memorials may be sent to St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul.
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Publication:Business Wire
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 13, 2005
Words:292
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