seal2003 Honorary Degree

Martin M. (John) Atalla

Doctor Of Engineering

Martin M. (John) Atalla has distinguished himself as an engineer, innovator, entrepreneur and visionary in the field of fabrication processes for semiconductor devices and computer data security.

Martin M. (John) Atalla

He is known as the "Father of the PIN," acknowledging his development of the Personal Identification Number system in information security management.

Dr. Atalla is currently the chairman of A4 Systems and lives in Atherton, Calif.

Born in Port Said, Egypt, Dr. Atalla received his early formal training in Egypt, earning a bachelor of science degree from Cairo University before coming to Purdue, where he studied mechanical engineering and received a master's degree in 1947 and a doctorate in 1949.

Dr. Atalla started his career doing innovative research at Bell Laboratories, resulting in patents for the metal oxide semiconductor, a key component of modern electronic devices. From there he co-founded Hewlett Packard Associates, which provided Hewlett Packard with fundamental solid-state capabilities, and went on to help create Hewlett Packard Laboratories, directing its solid-state division.

In 1973, Dr. Atalla ventured out on his own and founded the Atalla Corporation to address the security problems of banking and financial institutions. He invented the technology that became the "Atalla Box," which still secures 80 percent of all automated teller machines worldwide. During that process, he invented the PIN system, which has become the standard form of identification in the banking industry. Dr. Atalla merged his corporation with Tandem Computers in 1987 and retired in 1990.

Retirement didn’t last long, however, as several major bank executives persuaded Dr. Atalla to help focus security management on the Internet. Their concern was that they saw no innovation in the security industry that would create a useable environment for electronic commerce.

So Dr. Atalla proceeded to invent new, revolutionary approaches to enterprise security. He started another company, TriStrata, with a core of senior security, networking and software experts, to deliver a high-performance, globally scaleable, secure information management system. This technology was specifically designed to provide the speed and performance necessary for secure electronic transactions on the Internet.

In his latest venture as chairman of A4 Systems, Dr. Atalla, who was honored as Purdue’s Distinguished Engineering Alumnus in 2002, is using his vision of security, privacy and assurance in deploying systems to major academic, government and commercial customers, providing absolute security for sensitive information.