RIP: Dave Beaver

I’m sorry to inform you that Dave Beaver died unexpectedly on Saturday, 19 January 2019.

I don’t know how many of you here knew Dave. As a Technical Evangelist at Microsoft (widely known and referred to by his alias “dbeaver”) he was positively instrumental in helping spread architecture and driver development information in the earliest days of Windows NT. Of particular note was Dave’s work helping the community with file systems and file system filter development. This was no small feat: We (here in the outside world) knew and understood little about NT OS architecture, there was no file system development documentation (exactly zero of the required interfaces were in the DDK documentation at the time), there was no source code generally available for any NT file system or file system filter, there was a good deal of internal MSFT tension about what should and should not be made public, and the original NT developers were – ah, how to best put this – “not always as friendly as they might be.”

Despite this, DBeaver successfully organized the first (and only!) NT File Systems Development Conference in 1994. This was the last time the NT development team all did presentations on their own pieces of NTOS architecture (no, Cutler did not present – by this time he had amassed sufficient clout that he could simply decline such invitations – Darryl Havens presented the kernel architecture slides for him).

I remember DBeaver being generous and helpful to every ISV that he worked with, large or small, sharing his incredible practical and architectural knowledge while navigating complex internal politics for the benefit of all. Dave was particularly kind and generous to us at OSR in those early years, and was instrumental in starting us on our road to developing a deep understanding of Windows file systems and internals.

After leaving MSFT, Dave continued to do cool things in the file system space at companies such as HP, WD, and Dell.

This is the second colleague of mine who had died in as many months. In thinking about this, I’m struck by how high tech history so often fails to remember the names of the people who made a real difference. The industry has developed its own historical narrative. That narrative includes a certain historical path, and a certain specific set of individuals. But, in so doing, that history unfortunately misses so many other paths and people without whom the industry wouldn’t be what it is today. Seriously… if DBeaver didn’t do the work he did, it’s entirely likely WIndows would not be what it is today – I mean that in all seriousness. And I can tell you for sure that OSR would not be what it is today. What a difference one person can make!

So, I’ll miss DBeaver. If you knew him, I’m sure you feel that same sense of loss. If you didn’t know him, please take just a second today to ponder how many individuals have worked their asses off, largely uncelebrated and unknown, to make our industry what it is. It’s not only the big names (Gates and Jobs, or Kernighan and Ritchie, or Stallman and Torvalds, to choose just a couple from popular culture) who got us here. The actual history of tech is far more colorful, interesting, and nuanced, and the real folks we should thank are folks like DBeaver.


(I’m posting this to NTDEV, but I’m going to move it to NTFSD and leave a link in NTDEV, to gain the broadest possible exposure)