Byron Gariepy

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Byron Gariepy
Byron L. Gariepy headshot.png
BSc Geology
BSc university Northwestern University


Byron Gariepy is honored, with John Koonce in recognition for "devising, promoting, and obtaining the production of the first array processor for seismic data processing."


Biography Citation for the Reginald Fessenden Award

Contributed by Jack Sisko


The SEG Honors and Awards Committee selected Byron Gariepy for this honor in recognition of Byron's "pioneer work, along with John Koonce, in devising, promoting, and obtaining the production of the first array processor. The development of this multiprogrammable, floating-point, vector processor has provided the means to cope with the ever increasing large data volumes and sophisticated techniques of seismic processing."

While this award is well deserved, Byron would never have described the development this seriously, nor would he accept this credit without recognizing the significant contributions others made in clarifying the concepts and providing the motivation to persevere in obtaining the support necessary from IBM to produce the IBM 2938 array processor. Some may dispute the fact that this recognition can be accorded to particular individuals because others undoubtedly realized the need and searched for solutions. The key element is that this was the first floating-point array processor that was marketed. As Carl Savit stated, "If the Koonce/Gariepy development was anticipated by someone else, that anticipation must have remained locked away in company files because it certainly did not appear in public or on the market."

Byron graduated from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois in 1959 with a B.Sc. in geology. Showing his versatility at an early stage, he eschewed geology, and began his career as a geophysicist with Marathon Oil from 1959 to 1965. During this period, Marathon contracted one of the first commercial seismic digital surveys. This was exciting stuff! \Byron decided that going to work for a computer vendor was the best way to get into the action. Byron had a choice between IBM and CDC. IBM won because Shreveport was warm and Chippewa Falls was not . . . and there was an opportunity for Byron to be assigned as a systems engineer for Western Geophysical's Shreveport processing center. At this time, the lead IBM albeit in fixed point; Roy Lindseth of CDP who brought up inversion (acoustic impedance) as an important future; and Carl Savit of Western who, when referring to binary gain recording, asked "Why pseudo floating point when real floating point would be the right solution?"

Byron took on the challenge of coalescing these ideas and persuading IBM to put a unit into production for processing seismic data a data type that most senior executives had never heard of and were unable to spell. For this feat Byron won the IBM Oustanding Contribution award in 1967.

Following this, Byron continues to display his propensity for undertaking unusual challenges. He established and managed IBM's International Petroleum Exploration Center from 1970 through 1972. This was IBM's first international technical support center. He then became IBM's technical support manager for the USSR. He jokes that his primary accomplishment in this period was meeting Tania, his Australian wife-to-be, in Moscow. In 1974, Byron left IBM to become an independent consultant and spent the next few years in Indonesia. In 1981 he moved to Australia and, performing another unusual feat, was able to rejoin IBM. Today he is a systems engineer in the Australian Advanced Systems Center in Melbourne with responsibility for vector processing and expert systems.

Throughout his career Byron has been noted for his unique sense of humor a trait that has made receiving correspondence from Byron a delight and has cast a new perspective on many previously baffling problems. What a distinct pleasure it was for me, throughout the years, to have had the privilege of working with Byron Gariepy and to have witnessed his contributions to the geophysical industry.