George A. Champine, 78, pioneer in computer technology
He was born in Fairmont, Minnesota, oldest child of Floyd and Genevieve Champine, and graduated from Fairmont High School. He earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Physics and a Ph.D. in Information Systems all from the University of Minnesota. In 1956 he married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Nelson.
George was a pioneer in computer technology. He was one of the first 2,000 programmers in the world, and he continued on the forefront of information technology throughout his professional career. As a graduate student, he began work for Univac in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he wrote most of the software for the world’s first airborne computer. This computer used real-time data from radar to control the rear turret machine guns on a heavy bomber. He also led teams that developed software for the world’s first ground-based digital missile guidance system, and computer-controlled radar. He made major computer architecture contributions to the Univac 1100/60 computer.
George was very active in the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Technology Alumni Society and was president during 1979-1980. He was promoted to Director of Research at Univac, Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, where he managed 146 researchers. He subsequently left Univac and became Senior Vice President of Engineering at Vydec, a subsidiary of Exxon Enterprise Inc. George and Barbara lived in Short Hills, New Jersey at this time. Later he joined Digital Equipment Corp. in the Boston area, and they moved to Acton. At Digital, he pioneered high performance graphical workstations.
In 1984, Digital assigned him to lead their research team at Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp in Austin, Texas, and in 1986 to become Associate Project Director of Project Athena at MIT in Cambridge. He published a book describing the project. George and Barbara moved to Stow at this time. He subsequently became Director of Technology for Information Systems at Digital, and when Compaq Computer acquired Digital he became Director of Technology and Architecture.
Shortly after Hewlett Packard acquired Compaq in 2002, he retired at age 68, and he and Barbara moved to Quail Run in Hudson.
In retirement, he taught computer classes, maintained websites for four non-profits, and fixed computer problems for Quail Run residents. As a volunteer at the Harvard astronomy department, he photographed 80,000 pages of astronomy telescope data and was instrumental in setting up the bar code system in identifying astronomy images. George was on the board of directors for the Hudson Historical Society and The Photographic Historical Society of New England.
During George’s working career, he taught many college courses part-time, including Physics at Hamline University in St. Paul, Project management at the University of Minnesota, and Computer Graphics at the University of Texas, MIT in Cambridge, and the University of Massachusetts/Lowell. He had written more than 30 papers published nationally and authored three books in the computer field. He also wrote four books about life in southern Minnesota and his home town of Fairmont.
He was highly respected on a worldwide basis as a speaker on advances in computer science and technology. His interests were photography, family history, electronic music, playing the organ, motorcycling, canoeing, camping, astrophysics, travel, and jogging.
Survivors include his wife of 57 years, Barbara, and his children, Renee Olson of San Jose, CA, Mark Champine and wife Lori of Westford, and Lisa Paton of Hudson. He was survived by seven grandchildren, and a brother, John Champine and wife Lynn of Prior Lake, MN, and was predeceased by a brother, Charles.
At his request a memorial service will be held at a later date in Minnesota. He will be buried in Lakeside Cemetery, Fairmont, MN. A visitation will be held Wednesday, April 3, from 6 to 8 p.m., at Tighe-Hamilton Funeral Home (www.tighehamilton.com), 50 Central St., Hudson.
The family wishes to thank Dr. Steven McAfee, Dr. Philip Amrein, and all the doctors, nurses, and staff at MGH who made it possible for George to spend over two-and-a-half extra years with us. He felt fortunate to have the very best care available.
Memorials in his name may be made to the Bone Marrow Transplant Program Fund, Massachusetts General Hospital, Development Office, 165 Cambridge St., Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114-2792.
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