The news that Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and one of the most influential innovators in computer science, was leaving the company he helped to create 21 years ago, has triggered articles that sound more like obituaries than anything else. Mr Joy is only 48 years old, and has much to look forward to. His accomplishments were summarised in a private communication by Sun chief researcher John Gage: 'Joy created Berkeley Unix, the C-shell, the Vi editor, the Network File System, the Java language, Jini, Jxta, the parallel pipeline optimisations for the central Sparc processors in a large proportion of the world's supercomputers, the optimising analytic tools at the base of multi-threaded hardware design, and hundreds of other basic advances in computer science.' Tall and intimidating, Mr Joy does not suffer fools gladly, and has an intense look in his eye when pondering a point. He is also a private man who, in 1991, moved out of Silicon Valley and set up a home and a lab in Colorado. Gong Li, Sun's managing director for its engineering lab in Beijing, worked with Mr Joy for many years. 'Talking to Bill Joy requires a lot of high bandwidth and processing power,' Mr Gong said. 'He has little time for people who cannot keep up with him. But he has such a depth of understanding of the issues that engineers at Sun always considered it a great honour to work with him on any project.' Eric Schmidt, chief executive at search engine giant Google, served as chief technology officer at Sun and worked with Mr Joy's Java development team. He described Mr Joy as his 'long-term personal friend and special in many ways' and as 'the prime technical strategist for Sun for many years'. Mr Gage said Mr Joy's resignation reflected the tension between science and business. 'In the 1990s, Mr Joy repeatedly pointed out that solutions designed for the 1980s - in the era of small processors and slow networks - required fundamental redesign to become secure, reliable and distributed,' Mr Gage said. Mr Joy was famous for saying at Sun that 'innovation happens elsewhere', implying that companies begin to lose the ability to innovate as they gain in size. IBM's Frank Soltis, creator of the AS/400, said: 'His contributions to our industry will live on for many years to come.''