Richard M. Shupak, 60, formerly of Dresher, retired innovative research software development engineer at Microsoft Corp., world traveler and ardent foodie, died Sunday, Sept. 17, of injuries sustained in an accident while vacationing in Puerto Escondido, Mexico.
Sir. Hailed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and other executives as one of the company’s most prolific software engineers from 1988 to 2012, Shupak helped develop the revolutionary QuickBASIC computer programming language and other tools that optimized computer code and related software. His skills were so extraordinary, his family said in a tribute, “that Bill Gates once described him as Microsoft’s ‘special sauce’.”
Mr. Shupak was an expert programming debugger, and Microsoft was awarded several patents for his inventions, including one in 2011 called “Safe and Efficient Allocation of Memory” that, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office, “inhibits malware from identifying the location of the executable image.”
In a profile he wrote in 2000 for Microsoft’s book Inside out, Mr. Shupak said he landed an interview with the tech giant after sending “so many” suggestions on how to improve the OS/2 operating system he had purchased. Over the years, he became one of the company’s top quality control engineers and problem solvers, saying, “What’s important to me is not being the first to think of something. It’s more the charge I get from figuring out that at first. My ideas mostly come in response to a problem.”
He worked on MS-DOS, Visual Basic, and other programming languages at Microsoft, and ever the prankster, he sometimes inserted his initials into a code when two of the bytes could be anything. Not all of his colleagues appreciated his ability to uncover flaws in their work, he said, but they usually changed their attitudes when it “came back to haunt us” after they ignored him.
“Making a nuisance of myself is not officially part of my job description,” he said. “It’s more like a hobby.”
Previously, Mr. Shupak at Sperry Corp. and earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. He became a world traveler and enthusiastic foodie after retiring from Microsoft in 2012.
He visited at least 90 countries, often with family and friends, and made it a point to immerse himself in the culture, language and cuisine wherever he went. “His unconventional kindness and his passion for excellent food and travel will outlive him in the many people he met around the world,” a friend said in an online tribute.
He researched the world’s top-rated restaurants, sought their prime reservations, and often planned his itinerary around their availability. “He left his personality and wit that tour guides, merchants and restaurateurs could not easily forget,” said a friend.
Richard Mark Shupak was born October 25, 1962 in Philadelphia. He lived in Mount Airy and Dresher, graduated from Germantown Academy in 1980 with a near-perfect score on the SAT and was a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist. He worked for years as a young man at Martin’s Aquarium in Jenkintown and graduated from Penn in 1984. He moved to Kirkland, Washington after joining Microsoft.
“Sometimes I take on pet projects that are just interesting to me and I make myself a nuisance.”
Richard Shupak on how he reviewed and tried to improve the work of his colleagues at Microsoft.
His family founded the prominent Shupak Pickle Products Co. in the early 1900s, and he was so interested in their genealogy that he traced their roots back to their arrival in the United States from Russia and elsewhere.
Mr. Shupak was generous, adventurous and curious. He valued education and helped family and friends afford tuition and other expenses associated with self-improvement. “Richard was a unique and kind man who unfailingly showed generosity in other people’s need,” said a friend.
He admitted to being a procrastinator when it came to responding to company emails at Microsoft, but remained so interested in computer programming that he felt obligated to warn other companies he interacted with later when he noticed vulnerabilities in their software systems.
He liked to joke with his siblings when he was young and he loved his cats, Prince and Princess. “He would do anything for anyone in his life,” said his sister Ellen. “He was one of a kind.”
In addition to his sister, Mr. Shupak by his mother, Phyllis; a brother; and other relatives.
Services were Tuesday, September 26.
Donations in his name may be made to Mexico’s Mount Sinai Alliance Benevolent Society.